Newsletter 4


Friends of St Mary's Church, Cricklade, Wiltshire, U.K.


Chairman: Hugh Dudley, 4 Pleydells, Cricklade, SWINDON, SN6 6NG

Secretary: Gerry Dudley, 4 Pleydells, Cricklade, SWINDON, SN6 6NG

Treasurer: Tony Barratt, 13 Boundary Close, Stratton, SWINDON, SN2 7TF


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Newsletter No. 4


September 2000

Dear Friends,

You may recall that when I last wrote, I reported that we had been given the go-ahead to prepare a structured programme of work over the next 5 years. Our first priority is to halt and correct the subsidence and deterioration of the North aisle. Following on from this we hope to address the front boundary wall and then the roof of the North chapel, subject to there being nothing more pressing at that point.

The maintenance of a Grade ll* listed building can be extremely frustrating. (See also Edmund's article which follows). Having been authorised to proceed, we had to wait until July for a site visit by the Historic Churches Committee (the planning authority). It granted a "Determination" (agreement in principle) which should progress to a Faculty (planning permission in lay terms) BUT subject to a proviso that the work is monitored by a full Archaeological watching brief. Co-ordinating this into our programme of work has caused further delay, but we are reasonably confident that we shall be able to go out to tender in the next month or two, and start work this year.

While the work is underway we shall pursue our submission for financial support from North Wiltshire District Council to renew the dangerous front boundary wall and protect the footpath. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) the District budget has already invested considerable money into the refurbishment of the High Street. Funds for our project are not available at present.

The repair of the North chapel roof will be next on our agenda. The funds required to achieve its renewal will need to be sourced from grants and local enterprise i.e. fundraising. It is likely to be a major undertaking involving removal of the organ in order to access the roof.

Moving on to less costly enterprises, we obtained a grant of 500 from The Waylands Trust to carry out repairs in the belfry and reinstate the chimes on the church clock. The latter has proved to be too expensive. The striking mechanism requires a new bell, as the Call Bell in the tower is too old (1733) and fragile to sustain hourly striking. We are limiting the clock refurbishment to the installation of a winding device at ground level. This will save us from having to climb the ladder in the tower each week in order to wind the clock!

Requiring a more substantial injection of cash is the proposal to fit the church with radiant heaters. Parishioners and visitors will be delighted to learn that we intend to press our case for a greater source of warmth during the cold winter months than the space heaters under the pew seats.

With all these plans, you may be tempted to ask how the coffers stand. So far this year we have raised 3,796.81 which brings our total fundraising to a sum in excess of 16,000. We have spent 5,516.42 on improvements and maintenance (cushioning to the kneelers and renewal of guttering and downpipes). There remains 10,854.16. It is a healthy sum and a credit to the "Friends" hard work, Undoubtedly we shall need more...

I hope that you now have a fair idea of the programme that you are supporting. We need to keep the fundraising bandwagon rolling and also to extend our patronage beyond the purses of parish and "Friends". If you have any ideas, they would be most welcome.

Although it is long since past, our Open Day on 27 May was well attended, and Edmund's guided tour of the church much appreciated by a keen audience. We continued to open up the church on alternate Saturday mornings throughout the summer.

Finally and sadly, we have had to bid farewell to our Chairman, Tim Cheesman, who is retiring to the warmth of the Gulf Stream in South Devon. No more damp churches! Tim has played a key role in the Friend's enterprise not only as Chairman, but as handyman and fundraiser. Thank you, Tim. I have been invited to replace Tim, and shall do my best to emulate his performance - if only enthusiasm were enough!

Bernadette Yarnold


RESTORATION WORK - Problems and progress

St Mary's church is a much loved building. The very fact of its survival in its present form for some 600 years, and as a place of worship for nearly 1000 years is a testament to the care that generation upon generation have taken in its upkeep. For the vast majority of that period, it was very much up to the local community, no doubt with the support of benefactors both public and anonymous, to develop, alter, maintain and improve upon the church that previous generations had left to them. Today, the care of old buildings is instead very much a public concern. This finds expression in the wide variety of interest groups, both public and private that need to be consulted by anyone seeking to do any substantial work on their building.

Take, for example, the work that is being planned affecting the boundary wall of the churchyard that fronts on to Cricklade High Street. It is a Listed Building in its own right. It fronts on to a public highway. It lies across the line of the Anglo-Saxon defensive wall. It lies in a Conservation Area. It is owned by the Anglican Diocese, and leased, along with the rest of the church, to the Catholic Diocese. Altogether this complex web of ownership and interests probably makes the modest nineteenth century limestone wall one of the most complicated walls in the whole of Cricklade!

At a recent site meeting that I attended on behalf of the Friends there were a total of fifteen professionals available to give advice and comment on the nature and extent of the work needed. They represented the Historic Churches Committee, the North Wiltshire District Council, the County Council, the Catholic Diocese, the Victorian Society, and the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings. Other organisations had sent reports.

Sometimes it can seem frustrating to have so many interests involved in work on the church. Back in 1862 when the Reverend Allan planned a thorough restoration of the church, including opening up the roof, re-building some parts of the walls, building the boundary wall, and completely re-ordering the interior, he was able to complete the work in little more than a year! Even then, however, the local paper reported regret that a "too-narrow red-tapism" had prevented him from getting grants from a local charity .

However, the number of people that take the time and trouble to attend such a meeting, and to involve themselves and their organisations in the planning process should perhaps best be seen as a demonstration of the modern commitment to historic buildings. We take a bit more time, and perhaps a bit more care than our Victorian forebears. Perhaps that means that we will be able to pass on St Mary's to future generations of "Friends".

Edmund Lee is Adviser on Conservation to "The Friends of St Mary's "


FOR SALE Notelets depicting a southern aspect of St Mary's from gates to porch. Packets of 10, with envelopes, 2.00. Available at St Mary's or via Committee members.

ALTAR FRONTAL Work on the altar frontal, delayed whilst the future of the church was in the balance, is due to start in October. Needlewomen volunteers would be appreciated. If you can spare a morning every fortnight (probably Tuesday) you would be most welcome. Please contact Bernadette 01285 861586.

COFFEE MORNING We plan to hold a coffee morning, with bring and buy, in Cricklade towards the end of October or early November. Details are not yet finalised, but we hope .that we can count upon the support of all our "Friends " in the locality. Further information follows.