East London Churches Tour
Diana Dobson, Friend of the National Churches Trust, writes about our tour of three East London churches in October 2017.
When our church received the grant of £40,000 from the National Churches Trust which enabled us to proceed with essential repairs to the spire, I decided to find out more about this wonderful organisation. My immense gratitude prompted me to become a ‘Friend’ of the Trust and since then my husband and I have enjoyed one or two special events which are open to the Friends and their guests.
The most recent one, in October, was a tour of three churches in East London all of which had received financial help from the Trust in recent years. The first two we saw were Anglican churches, one on Bethnal Green and the other in Hackney. The third was the Memorial Community Church in Plaistow. Strangely all three have worshipping congregations of about the same size as ours and they all serve their local communities in a variety of ways just as we do.
The Community Memorial Church is rather different from the others and I found it particularly enjoyable. It is a century younger than the other two and was originally the West Ham Central Mission of the Baptist Church. We were shown round by a wonderful man, one of the elders of the Community Memorial Church. There is a mass of information on their website but to summarise: activities in the building include support and training for young parents hoping to enter employment, support and food for the homeless, activities for children and young people, access to and assistance with the internet and a social club and events for older people.
The Memorial Church seemed an unusual name to me and it is indeed unusual, maybe unique in one respect. At the time it was built, memorials to the men killed in World War I were appearing all over the country and the founders of the West Ham Central Mission decided to install a peal of bells as their memorial to the men of the area who were closely associated with the Church. There are ten bells, nine inscribed with the 172 names of the servicemen who died. Our guide took us up to the top of the tower housing the bells and the Minister played a hymn tune for us on the clavier (keyboard) which controls the bells. No dangling ropes here! I don’t think the sound travels as far as our bells but we certainly needed ear protectors standing just below them in the bell chamber!
All in all a most enjoyable day out.
A Visit to Historic Lincoln
On Wednesday 14th June 2017, Friends and supporters of the National Churches Trust enjoyed a tour of Historic Lincoln. The day began with welcome refreshments in the Cloister Refectory and was followed by a guided tour of the remarkable Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lincoln.
After lunch guests took in the Battles & Dynasties exhibition at The Collection, an award winning archaeology museum, before finally heading down to St Swithin’s Church, one of our grantee churches who are about to embark on an ambitious reordering project.
‘Days Like These' An evening with Joanna Lumley
On Tuesday 1st December 2015 St Mary le Strand, the fine baroque church in the middle of the bustling Strand, played host to a very special evening kicking off the Christmas season in style.
Guests were delighted to an intriguing talk from the fantastically vibrant Joanna Lumley, discussing everything from her upbringing in India to the imminent Garden Bridge and plans for the North Bank surrounding the church.
This was followed by a beautiful seasonal programme of Piano music from Pavel Timofeyevsky including Tchaikovsky’s Seasons and Debussy’s L’Isle Joyeuse.
Father Philip Chester, Vicar of St Mary le Strand, introduced the evening and we were joined by Friends of the National Churches Trust and Joanna Lumley fans alike. Miss Lumley kindly joined us for a post-performance reception meeting lots of guests before departing for the Absolutely Fabulous film wrap party!
We also raised a fantastic £320.80 for the Save our Spires appeal in the retiring collection.
Tour of St Augustine's Church in Ramsgate
On Wednesday 2nd September 2015, we enjoyed a private tour of St Augustine’s Church in Ramsgate, which the Trust supported with a £40,000 Cornerstone Grant in 2012.
Grade I Listed, St Augustine’s Church is a Gothic Revival masterpiece, and of international importance in understanding the work and contribution of Augustus Welby Pugin, one of the greatest British architects of the 19th century. His personal creation and final resting place, Pugin described it as “my own child” and perfected there his “true principles of Christian architecture.”
Attendees enjoyed a morning talk with Centre Manager John Coverdale, during which they learnt more about Pugin and the architectural vision that he realized at St Augustine’s Church. They also heard from architect Paul Sharrick, who offered a fascinating insight into the building's eccentricities and recent programme of repairs.
In the afternoon, we enjoyed a buffet lunch and a stroll along the cliff tops, before enjoying a highly informative tour of the stunning St Augustine's Church, in the company of tour guide Veronica Platt and architect Paul Sharrock. We ended the day with a visit to The Grange, Pugin’s self-built family home. Now managed by The Landmark Trust and rarely open to the public, The Grange has been painstakingly returned to an appearance that Pugin would recognise, and offered us a unique opportunity to enter Pugin's colourful and idiosyncratic world. Led by specialist guides, we explored this astounding building, and also toured its beautiful gardens.
It was a very memorable day, and we look forward to announcing details of our next tour very soon.
An Evening at Westminster Abbey
On Tuesday 28th April 2015, we enjoyed evensong and a private guided tour of Westminster Abbey, followed by an exclusive reception in its historic Jerusalem Chamber.
The evening was hosted by the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster, and we were thrilled that our Vice Patron HRH The Duke of Gloucester KG GCVO joined us.
The special evening started at 5pm with a service of Choral Evensong. Guests enjoyed reserved seating in the Quire Stalls, the finest seats situated right in the heart of Westminster Abbey.
The Dean then led a private tour of the Abbey, revealing its fascinating history and some of the hidden wonders that are rarely accessible to the public.
The evening culminated in a private reception in the Jerusalem Chamber. Not normally open to the public, the Jerusalem Chamber was part of the medieval house of the Abbots of Westminster, known as Cheyneygates, and the place where King Henry IV died, as narrated by Shakespeare in Henry IV Part II.
An Evening with Michael Palin
On Thursday 26th March 2015, we had the delight of hosting An Evening with Michael Palin.
Held at the Trust’s offices in Westminster, guests enjoyed a wonderful talk from Michael about his favourite churches, which included St John's in Ranmoor, St Edmund's in Southwold, St Peter's in Wenhaston, St Margaret's in Abbotsley, and St Mary's in Linton, where his great-grandfather was incumbent.
After a Q&A session, guests enjoyed a glass of prosecco in Michael's company. You can view a selection of photos from the evening at https://www.flickr.com/photos/nationalchurchestrust/sets/