Joanna Lumley discovers the skeletons under the Strand

Published: Wednesday, December 2, 2015


Speaking to Friends of the National Churches Trust, Joanna Lumley has told the story of St Mary le Strand.

She revealed that the church, which will form a central part of London’s new North Bank quarter, needs to raise over £4 million to make it as good as new.

She told Friends of the National Churches Trust at their Christmas reception held in James Gibbs’ 17th Century masterpiece, that vicar Fr Phillip Chester has taken her on a private tour of the crypt, which contains the remains of former parishioners and which will be excavated when the church is updated. Plans for the church include pedestrianisation of part of the Strand, rescuing grade I-listed St Mary le Strand from exile on a traffic island.

'Save our Spires'

Joanna Lumley also announced the winner of the National Churches Trust ‘Save our Spires’ photography competition, a photograph of St Peter’s church in Oundle, Northamptonshire, taken by William Gunson, a Deputy House Master at Oundle School. She is pictured above holding a copy of the winning photograph.

The photography competition is part of the charity’s campaign to highlight the plight of the UK’s church spires. Soaring high above their surroundings, church spires were built as an attempt to get as close to Heaven as possible.  Sadly, these days many are in danger of going in the other direction.

The photography competition shows why spires are such an important part of the UK’s visual landscape. The winning entries were judged to be the most visually appealing and for their originality. 82 photographs were submitted. Judges for the competition were: The Right Reverend Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury, Christopher Jonas CBE and Sara de Rohan, Secretary, Herefordshire Historic Churches Trust.  The winning entries can be seen in the slide show at the bottom of this page.

Winner                   William Gunson for his photograph of St Peter's church, Oundle, Northamptonshire

First runner- up    Annie Martirosyan for her photograph of Holy Trinity church, Stratford upon Avon

Second runner- up  Lyn Doe,  for her photograph of St Patrick's church, Patrington, East Yorkshire,

Third runner-up    Tamsin Wooldridge, for her photograph of St Malachy's church, Hillsborough, County Down, Northern Ireland

Fourth runner-up   Tony Sellen, for his photograph of St Paul's church Chigwell, Essex

Highly Commended  Neil Hedge, for his photograph of St James church, Louth, Lincolnshire

Since 2013, the National Churches Trust has funded repairs to 17 spires in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, investing over £370,000 in their future. However, last year Historic England’s  'Heritage at Risk' register showed that over 40 churches required urgent attention to their spires.  And many church spires in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are also in need of major repair. The National Churches Trust is seeking to raise another £250,000 to help safeguard the future of more church spires.

Claire Walker, Chief Executive of the National Churches Trust said:

“Friends of the National Churches Trust were delighted to hear about Joanna Lumley's fascination with churches and in particular about the future of St Mary le Strand and how it will become a key feature of the North Bank quarter of London."

Joanna Lumley also announced the winner of our 'Save our Spires' photography competition. Church spires are amazing architectural achievements. It’s no surprise that many people’s favourite churches have spires, including Joanna Lumley OBE, whose favourite church is St Bride’s in the City of London, the inspiration for tiered wedding cakes.”

“We’re delighted to have had so many excellent entries for our ‘Save our Spires’ photography competition and would like to thank everyone who took part.  The winning entries show just why church spires are key features of our landscape and remind us why it is so important that they are kept in good repair so that they can be enjoyed by our children and children’s children.”

You can support our 'Save our Spires' appeal by making a donation online.