Testament to Church


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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The Evening Advertiser 14 Oct 1998


A centuries old place of worship has a special corner in the hearts

Guiding the way ... St Mary's steering committee, from the left: Bernadette Yarnold, Patrick Prendergast, Gerry Dudley, Edmund Lee, Anne Hayes and Tim Cheesman

Pleased to met you again ... Madge Kelly chats to old friends Bill New and his wife May

of Cricklade folk who are now offering a helping hand

Reading the Good Book ... Grace Robinson

In the pulpit ... Douglas Stanton, 5, and his mum Susan


Worshippers unite

 to boost St Mary's




Looking at the past ... Bert Nash and Bernadette Yarnold inspect church memorabilia

More than 45 generations of worship has inspired the launch of of an appeal fund for an ageing Cricklade church. Churchgoers, united in their affection for St Mary's in High Street, have formed a friends group to help raise 35,000 for badly needed repairs and improvements.

   They marked the official launch by welcoming worshippers with the longest standing links with St Mary's, which was declared redundant in 1981.

   Among them was 92-year old Arnold Giles, who was Christened, confirmed and served as a sidesman at St Mary's.

   Arnold, who attended the special service to launch Friends of St Mary's had not stepped inside the building since Church of England services stopped.

   He was reunited with the seat at the back of the church which he occupied from the age of two.

There was clearly a lot of interest in the town ... Richard Barton, the new parish priest of St Mary's

Meeting of note ... Vera Holbrooke who played the church organ as a teenager and the present organist David Hoad

   Also among the 80 guests filling the tiny church was 93 year-old Madge Kelly, who has not missed a Sunday mass since the Catholic church moved to St Mary's 14 years ago.

   Money is needed to replace an underseat heating system which is cracking the pews.

   The bell tower needs repairing, the church organ needs some attention and work will also have to be carried out on subsidence.

   St Mary's set up a steering committee to oversee the friends' fund-raising project which is made up of members from both the Church of England and Catholic denominations.

   The church was amalgamated with St Sampson's, Cricklade, in 1952. It was seldom used for services and was put up for sale in 1981.

   Its fortunes were revived when it was bought by the Catholic church which has held services there ever since.

   Anyone with links to St Mary's or those simply wanting to support the

improvement scheme, were asked to go along to the launch service and support the appeal.

   About 80 people filled the tiny church which dates back to the turn of the last Millennium in Saxon times.

   Throughout the ages it has undergone a series of extensions and rebuilding work, including major facelifts in the 12th and 13th centuries before the last major refit in 1862.

  Local councillors, including North Wiltshire District Council chairman Brian Atfield and town council chairman Roger Bentley were asked to attend.

   Representatives from both church denominations also went along and included St Sampson's vicar Stephen Oram and the Dean of Swindon, Monsignor Richard Twomey.

    They enjoyed a short service conducted by the new parish priest Richard Barton, which was followed by presentations and speeches from members of the steering


   Visitors were able to see a photographic exhibition compiled by committee members Bernadette Yarnold and Edmund Lee.

   The event brought back special memories for past and present members of the St Mary's congregations.

   Mr Giles, who was born in Cricklade, and now lives in Minety, said: "This church means everything to me.

   "I first sat in this seat 90 years ago and I am over the moon to be back here.

   "I was Christened and confirmed here. When I saw my seat on the way in I made sure I collared it."

   Mrs Kelly, who lives in a Wootton Bassett nursing home, but still attends the church each week, said, "I could not do without my


   "It is a beautiful building. I think it's great that they have started the Friends of St Mary's. It gets us together the way we should be."

   Grace Robinson, 81, of the Priory, Cricklade, remembered going in to the

church every Saturday with her late husband, Sydney and stoking up the fire ready for the Sunday services.

   Vera Holbrooke, who became the St Mary's organist at the age of 16 in the 1920s until 1952 came back and provided the music for the Catholic services until two years ago.

   Mrs Holbrooke, 89, of High Street, said: "I think an awful lot of St Mary's and it's nice to keep in touch."

   Some money has already been collected for the appeal, with about 1,500 raised so far.

   There are plans to apply for Lottery funding to help the project.

   Tim Cheesman, chairman of the friends' steering committee, said he was pleased with the launch.

   Father Barton said: "It was very successful. There were representatives from lots of organisations and there was clearly a lot of interest in the town."


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