“St Mary’s Hawkesbury is a precious treasure” – Bishop Michael of Gloucester
St Mary’s is an ancient monument of breathtaking beauty. In order to preserve this wonderful site, the Friends of St Mary’s and the PCC need to spend extraordinary sums simply to maintain the building.
Since the turn of the century, the Friends have contributed about £200,000 through donations, bequests, grants and fundraising events to more than a dozen projects – a remarkable achievement for a parish with such a small population (about 1,400). The Friends have also provided working parties to keep the church and its grounds in the best possible condition.
We have two current projects: the restoration and repair of the tower and roof of the chancel and the acquisition and installation of a ring of eight bells, to include significant improvements to the vestry and storage in the church, together with some additional security measures to allow the daily opening of the church.
The tower/chancel roof project, which is costing £160,000, is now fully funded and work has begun. The scaffolding surrounding the tower will be up until completion and is a vivid reminder to passers-by of this major and long-anticipated project.
This work is being undertaken by one of the UK’s leading historical building restoration specialists, Carrek, whose previous projects include St John the Baptist Cirencester and Truro Cathedral. Find out more about their work and their credentials at www.carrek.co.uk.
For the bells project, we are halfway towards our target of £195k. We are approaching grant-giving agencies to seek funds towards the total cost, but you can make a difference by making a donation or by sponsoring an item relating to the project. (More details to be provided shortly.)
The new bell chamber will be placed just below the existing chamber in the tower that dates back to the 13th century, and which is one of the best preserved such chambers in the country.
The bells have now been cast at Allanconi, a specialist foundry in Italy and should be delivered to St Mary’s towards the end of 2020.
Visit Allanconi’s website to find out more about the fascinating ancient craft of casting bells – there’s an English-language version here: www.allanconi.it/home_eng.php.
The Friends’ most major project completed so far has been reroofing the nave, but there have been numerous minor projects too. Below are some the more eye-catching ones, but money has also been spent on less glamorous items behind the scenes, such as the boiler, the flue, a lightning conductor, and electrical work. The list of projects is endless, but the reward comes from preserving this glorious building for future generations.
Over the centuries the condition of woodwork cannot help but deteriorate and it was found that the South Door was entirely rotten. The friends contributed to the reconstruction of the door which can now be used regularly for festivals and as a main access to the graveyard.
The tombstones and graveyard are of national importance, with 54 appearing in the schedule of listed buildings. The table-top tombs are very susceptible to weather erosion and movements in the ground, making the preservation of them a difficult and never ending task.
The Friends have donated over £7,000 to the repair of the damaged table-top tombs and are committed to an ongoing repair of the most vulnerable monuments. As part of the renovation of all the church windows, the Friends were able to contribute £25,000, representing about 20% of the overall project costs.
By 2008, the organ was no longer functioning effectively, reducing its contribution to services. A restoration of this historic instrument by Roger Taylor of Somerset was undertaken by the Friends at a cost of just under £12,000.
The Friends provided just under £1,000 towards the refurbishment of the altar rail.
The wonderful rich red carpet which leads the visitor from the entrance up the series of steps to the altar was installed in 2007 at a cost of nearly £3,000.