Posted by: dorsetcpre | September 30, 2011

Dorset Historic Churches Trust

Affpuddle Church, DorsetThe Dorset Historic Churches Trust is a registered charity which is dedicated to the preservation of Christian churches and chapels of all denominations.

The year 2010 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Trust since it was founded in 1960 by Sir Owen Marshead. During this time it has raised over £1 million and given some 800 grants or loans to nearly 300 Dorset churches for fabric repairs, maintenance and restoration.

The Trust receives no money from the Diocese, from the Government, or indeed from anywhere else, and relies entirely on voluntary donations from church goers and members of the public. It employs no paid staff so all the money raised goes to supporting necessary work on the church buildings.

The best way to support the Trust is to take part in the Annual Ride and Stride Event on the second Saturday in September of each year, or to sponsor somebody who does. The churches are open from 10 am until 6 pm and people of all ages can take part on a bicycle, on foot, in a wheelchair, or on a horse. Most churches provide refreshments and have someone on duty to welcome visitors. Last year the Annual Ride and Stride raised over £56,000. Half of the sponsorship money goes into the fund for the preservation of Dorset churches and half goes to a church nominated by the rider, and the churchwardens usually put this money into the Fabric Fund.

I know one young man who, when he was four years old, did a sponsored ride on his tricycle round the town of Wareham where there are two Anglican churches, one Methodist, one Roman Catholic, and one United Reform Church. This year one rather sprightly lady who is old enough to remember the days before the last war is making the same journey walking round these five churches.

Moreton Church, DorsetI have cycled round all twenty-four churches in the Purbeck Deanery, some more than once, during the past five years and I usually raise between two hundred and three hundred pounds (including Gift-Aid) each year. Some young and fit people cycle a lot further than this, and some raise much larger sums of money. Last year I cycled twenty two miles up and down a series of rather steep hills and visited seven churches starting at Wool and finishing at Kimmeridge while my wife, Anne, looked after my nominated church at Arne and welcomed many cyclists there during the day. This year I shall take things a little more gently in the Frome and Piddle valleys riding about thirty-one miles to visit eleven churches starting at Moreton with the engraved glass windows by Lawrence Whistler and cycling round to Puddletown with the box pews and West Gallery, then to Bere Regis with the famous painted figures of the Apostles in the roof, eventually finishing at Bloxworth. This last church is well known for a special carol service the week before Christmas with a selection of West Gallery carols from Thomas Hardy’s time.

Bloxworth Church, DorsetGrants have often been quite small, especially in the early days. Some big well-known places have benefitted like Wimborne Minster and Sherborne Abbey together with some of Dorset’s little gems like the Saxon Saint Martin’s church at Wareham and the Methodist church at Loders. The Trust has recently helped with major expenditure on roofs at Buckhorn Weston, Bridport, and Tarrant Gunville, and on windows at Saint Ambrose, Westbourne.

An Architect appointed by the Diocese carries out a quinquennial inspection of every Anglican church and oversees the necessary repairs. It usually falls to the churchwardens to negotiate with the Diocese for the Faculty to authorise the work and to organise the necessary fundraising. The Trust money is used to prime the fund-raising process, and rarely pays for the whole cost. The Architect will be familiar with the basic skills of the trades involved in church repair and understands the liturgical requirements of the church and its role within the community.

Local contractors are used whenever possible for specialist work by stone masons, stone carvers, wood-workers and glaziers who need to use traditional techniques and materials, such as limebased mortar, to maintain the integrity of buildings constructed long ago. It is good that the Trust is able to help to maintain so many of these important and lovely Dorset buildings.

Dr John Larkin

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