Friends of St Mary’s, Bloxham
2018 was a fallow year for the Christmas Tree Festival, which has become the Friends’ major undertaking, but we still had an active programme of activities, as set out in this newsletter, including a choral concert, a talk in the church and our Christmas Quiz. The Friends substantially funded the Church’s new sound system during the year and paid for other early-stage costs of the proposed interior redevelopment of the church, on which we continue to work closely with the PCC.
Since our inception in 2002 the Friends have now raised, gross, over a quarter of a million pounds, and in that time have funded major spire repairs, and refurbishment and protection of the magnificent church windows. We are committed to assisting the PCC in funding the Building our Future project to redevelop the interior of the church to make it more welcoming, more practical and even more beautiful. Please do review the video “walkthrough” of the proposed design scheme for the church – you can find it at the Building our Future section of the new St Mary’s website (www.stmarysbloxham.org.uk).
The Friends’ fund-raising strategy is to focus on two main initiatives to drive our fund-raising: the 200 Club and the biennial Christmas Tree Festival. Active management and marketing of the 200 Club by Mel Rayner and Becky Horton has seen the number of tickets spoken for reach a record 171, which is great news. The 2019 Bloxham Christmas Tree Festival will take place over the weekend of 6-8 December – please make a note in your diaries!
May I extend my thanks to my colleagues on the Friends’ Committee for their invaluable contribution to ensuring that the Friends remain active and effective, and to all our members and supporters for their help and commitment; and wish you a happy and prosperous 2019.
Ian Myson, Chairman – Friends of St Mary’s, Bloxham
During the year ended 31 December 2017 (the most recent finalised accounts), the Friends generated a gross income of £14,495 (compared with £10,227 for 2016). Expenditure for the year was £2,358 (£6,802 for 2016). The net increase in proceeds therefore, meant that the Friends held £48,895 of funds at 31 December 2017.
The build-up of funds over the past two years has been in anticipation of the Friends being requested to make grants to the PCC to assist with the purchase and installation of a new sound system in church. In January 2018 the Friends made an initial grant of £11,235 for installation of the system, followed by a further grant of £12,484 in July. In addition, the PCC received a further grant from the Friends of £4,000 for the creation of a 3D video “walk-through” of the proposed interior design scheme, and to finance detailed work on project cost estimates. Including the annual contributions to assist with general church buildings maintenance and insurance, the Friends have made grants to the PCC of just over £35,000 in 2018.
A final payment of £6,242 is due in May 2019, to complete the Friends’ financial commitment to the sound system. We expect to end 2018 with £22,500 of funds.
John Marshall, Treasurer
The sixteenth Friends’ Annual General Meeting took place on Tuesday 17 April in the Parish Rooms and was attended by fifteen members, with apologies from a further seven. The Chairman, Ian Myson, was unable to attend because of business commitments and so John Marshall, the Deputy Chairman/Treasurer, welcomed everyone to the meeting and presented the annual report on Ian’s behalf.
After reminding everyone of the role of the Friends which is to raise funds for the fabric of the church, the Chairman was pleased to record that a total of £245,000 has been raised since the launch in 2002 and that the net income for 2017 was just under £11,000. This sum included £400 generated in September from a concert kindly performed by Banbury Strings in aid of the Friends, plus the net £3,000 raised from the Christmas Tree Festival held in December 2017. This biennial community event attracted about 1,200 visitors. Forty-one trees were imaginatively decorated by their sponsors, there was a varied programme of music performances, and refreshments were provided in the Parish Rooms. The Chairman expressed his thanks to everyone who helped to make the weekend such a success.
The 200 Club remains the mainstay of the ongoing fundraising, realising approx. £6,000 during 2017.
The Friends were pleased to have been able to cover the cost of the new sound system which has had such an impact of the experience of services and other events in church, and look forward to assisting the PCC as required in funding further elements of the project.
Gratitude was also expressed to the current committee members and to all members of the Friends and of the 200 Club, and other supporters of the various events and activities.
Following the Treasurer’s report and formal adoption of the accounts the Honorary Officers were re-elected to their current positions with the exception of John Marshall, who stood down as Deputy Chairman, though continuing as Treasurer. Jon Carlton had previously agreed to stand and was confirmed as Deputy Chairman. Geoff Cox kindly agreed to continue as External Examiner to the accounts for another year.
The 2019 AGM will take place on Tuesday 16 April at 8.00pm in the Parish Rooms. Please make a note of the date; we look forward to seeing you there.
Judy Marshall, Secretary
Once again, the Friends provided practical support for the Bloxham Festival of Faith and Literature which took place in February. Some Festival events took place in St Mary’s Church, in addition to the main venue at Bloxham School. Thanks to all those who helped in manning the church to welcome visitors from the Festival, and to those who helped with refreshments before the Songs of Praise service that closed the Festival.
The Friends were pleased to support the village Fun Day on Jubilee Park on 9 June and had a stall at the event. As there was not a Christmas Tree Festival to promote this year, the focus was on stimulating membership, uptake of 200 Club tickets and gaining the early commitment of participating teams in the Christmas Quiz. The event was also valuable for networking conversations about Friends’ activities.
Talk and tour of church
In July the Friends combined forces with Bloxham Village History Club to organise a talk and guided tour of St Mary’s Church led by Rev. Canon Jeff West OBE FSA FRSA.
Those of us who live in the village and/or worship here can so easily take for granted the wonderful church building we are privileged to use. The story of St Mary’s began in the 7thcentury. It was altered several times over the next 1400 years, although most of the existing building dates from the 13thand 14thcenturies.
Of the earlier structure, parts of 12thcentury stonework survive in the door to old vestry, and in pillars supporting the chancel arch because these were ingeniously incorporated into the 14thcentury design. During the 13thcentury the two arcades were added; but it was the 14thcentury building phase, when the tower and spire were added, which our speaker found most worthy of attention.
Outside we were shown the creative architecture which allows the square tower to transpose into an octagonal spire at the hollis (effectively a decorated balcony at the base of the spire). This feature is unique in this country and you have to look to the churches of Aragon in Spain for parallels in octagonal church spire architecture. Did this afford a clue as to the identity of the (wealthy) patron of the development of Bloxham church at this time?
In the 15thcentury the splendid windows of the perpendicular Milcombe chapel were added. The rood screen with original medieval paintings also dates from this period. Clerestory windows were added above the nave arches, and the roof raised to increase available light. 16thcentury records show that the chancel (the “holy end”) had been allowed to fall into disrepair. (The chancel is the responsibility of the patrons of the church, which at that time were the nuns of Godstow Nunnery).
In the 19thcentury the distinguished architect G.E. Street redesigned the chancel - which has remained largely unchanged since, with its William Morris East window, choir stalls, tiled floor and wooden roof. Street introduced pews, and stripped the walls of their decorated plaster. Today only small patches of original paintings can still be seen.
About 30 years ago a reordering of the church brought a second altar into the nave area. Wooden screens were designed by Nick Hodges of Wroxton, separating the Milcombe Chapel and belfry chamber.
Jeff’s talk provided valuable context for the further phase of reordering and beautification on which the church is currently embarked through the Building Our Future project. These developments will be only the latest, and probably not the last, stage in the ongoing development of the building, as each generation shapes St Mary’s Church according to its needs and purposes, both for worship and community engagement.
Those who forsook a sunny October afternoon to attend the Bradford Cathedral Choir concert in St Mary's Church were very well rewarded. This youthful choir, under their conductor, Alex Berry, a former Bloxham resident, filled the church space with their beautiful voices in a varied programme which ranged from several of Vaughan Williams'“Five Mystical Songs”,through Howard Goodall's setting of The Lord is my Shepherd (familiar as the theme tune of the TV series “The Vicar of Dibley”), to John Dankworth's only choral work, “Light of the World”.
We also heard a choir favourite, 'As the Apple Tree' by Robert Walker.
and were treated to a lively solo by organist Ed Jones: “Sortie in E flat” by L.J. A. Lefébure-Wély, which gave the church’s electronic organ a good workout.
In his introduction Alex Berry said that he was happy to be bringing his choir to his home church as the first stop on their three-day tour which would include singing at Wimborne Minster and Magdalen College, Oxford. These concerts help to raise the money necessary to support the Choir's activities both in the Bradford Diocese and more widely. Many thanks are extended to Alex and the choir for giving Bloxham a chance to hear fine music performed to such a high standard. An eager audience of more than 80 were clearly delighted with the whole concert and donated generously, raising a total of £994 to be equally divided between the Choir and Friends of St Mary's.
Our biennial Christmas Quiz was the usual boisterous sell-out in Jubilee Park Hall on 7 December. Seventeen teams of four competed for a range of prizes but mainly for quizzers' honour.
Ian Myson, as question-master, led the teams in grappling with identification of artists of female portraits, and of the voices of TV and Radio presenters; matching book titles to their first lines; unravelling fiendish anagrams; and in completing a particularly dastardly "groups and sequences" round (not quite as challenging as on the "Only Connect" TV programme, but quite challenging enough!).
Unprecedentedly, three teams tied for first place: “High Hopes” (who have form), “Universally Challenged” (who on this occasion weren’t) and “Strictly Come Quizzing” (who notably cleaned up on the classical music round).
Thank you to all who supported and helped with a very enjoyable fund-raiser. Net proceeds of £522 were added to Friends' funds, to protect and enhance St Mary's church building.
The PCC recently reaffirmed its commitment to implementing the “Building our Future” project. This is the project to redevelop the interior of the church building, to make it more welcoming, more practical (both for church and community use), and even more beautiful. The aim is for our church building to play its part in the reinvigoration of our worship and community engagement, supporting the growth and sustainability of our mission to reflect, demonstrate and share the love of God.
The proposals - which are subject to Diocesan approval - include the installation of kitchen and toilet facilities; the laying of a new stone floor to replace the existing decaying tiled floor; replacing most pews with more flexible and more comfortable seating that facilitates flexible spaces for worship and other activities; the opening up of the West Door as a main entrance to the building, with a raised bell-ringing chamber; improved disabled access; enhanced audio-visual facilities; new heating and lighting; and better meeting and storage facilities.
A significant first implementation step has already been taken with the installation of the new sound system. We have a full design scheme in place from our architects, and a number of work-streams have been started in recent months under the aegis of the PCC. We are in communication with the Diocesan planning authorities and working towards a site visit early in the New Year. We have engaged a historic buildings consultant to help us finalise the key Statements that are needed to support our church planning applications.
We have started to consult afresh with key local stakeholders on the proposals, starting with a very recent meeting with the headteachers of the schools in the village. Regular updates are given to, and input sought from, the Friends’ committee, who have kindly agreed to fund our most recent professional support on the project. We have also started to investigate potential for Bloxham Baptists to make use of the building. The PCC has approved governance arrangements for the project and a commitment has been made to engage professional project management and fund-raising skills.
There is a real opportunity for our church to build on the range and richness of current church activities and establish St Mary’s as a true community hub, against a background of Bloxham’s population in 2030 projected to be 70% higher than it was in 1991 (it is in fact already most of the way there!). The church building is currently greatly hampered by not being designed with such a purpose in mind.
The PCC are in a position of trust with regards to the church building, and its beauty and architectural distinction (St Mary’s is described in Pevsner’s Buildings of Englandas “one of the grandest churches in the country”). As such it is an aim of the project to further realise the glorious interior space and light. We have commissioned from our architects a 3D video “walkthrough” of the design which we believe helps to convey this, as well as demonstrating in a very tangible way the various elements of the proposed interior changes noted above. This is available to view on the new St Mary’s website at www.stmarysbloxham.org.uk and may be subject to further changes.
We would encourage you to examine the walkthrough, and please feedback any thoughts or comments on the proposals to the Vicar, the Churchwardens, or to Jon Carlton (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Ian Myson (email@example.com) who are supporting the day-to-day work of progressing this important project.
Ian Myson, Jon Carlton, Liz Farmer - December 2018
The 200 club continues to be a major fundraiser for the Friends, and the number of members this year, after a dip at the beginning of the year, has increased to a record 171 out of 200. It would be wonderful to have a full complement of 200 members, and we need to keep attracting new club members as numbers decrease owing to people moving, or unfortunately passing, away.
Prize winners in 2018 were as follows:
LUISA AND MERVYN JONES
Please could anyone who has changed address since taking out their 200 Club number please let us know. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any changes, so we can keep our records up to date and ensure you receive your all-important cheque should your number be pulled out at in one of the draws.
Friends’ activities in the year ahead
The Friends will be organising the fourth Bloxham Christmas Tree Festival, scheduled to take place over the weekend of 6-8 December 2019. This event will take up much of our energy for the year ahead, with planning due to start in February. Plans for other activities are taking shape.
We also expect to play a part in the broader fund-raising structure that is to be established to finance the Building our Future project, as one of the streams of activity alongside work to obtain public/private grants, corporate and individual giving and other community fund-raising.