Renewal at Buckhorn Weston

by Gerry Lynch last modified 25 Jun, 2018 04:36 PM

Small but perfectly formed Blackmore Vale church secures future with major round of renovations

Renewal at Buckhorn Weston

PCC members, including churchwardens David Duvall and Jenny Sledge (front left and centre) with the Vicar, the Revd Richard Priest, (front right) receive the grant from Dorset Historic Churches Trust.

The beautiful and ancient St John the Baptist church, in the North Dorset village of Buckhorn Weston, is celebrating the end of a major ten-year-long restoration project involving significant fundraising both from villagers and from charities.

Just over a decade ago, architectural inspection of the medieval building revealed that it had significant structural problems – not least a failing roof.

The village congregation set about raising the huge amounts of money that careful restoration work on listed buildings requires. Persistent and imaginative efforts by a number of people were required, as well as grant aid given by various charities.

The list of repairs carried out is impressive. The roof was renewed in two phases in 2009 and 2012, the windows were restored in 2013-4, works to external paths and internal flooring were done in 2010-1 and in 2015, and this year a host of smaller plasterwork and stone repairs were carried out.

A substantial early grant from English Heritage was vital, as was the support of the Erskine-Mouton Trust and the Dorset Historic Churches Trust, which grant-aided the works in four phases, to a total of £19,000.

More than £84,000 was raised, however, by local fundraising within this tiny village of less than 400 people. A monthly coffee club has raised £12,000 over the years, while soup lunches every two months added more than £5,000, Christmas Fayres more than £6,000. Then there were the open gardens, talks in the village hall, and much else.

A whopping £45,000 was raised from selling what many might have considered junk in yard sales or especially on eBay. PCC Treasurer Patricia Read was the mastermind behind this. They proactively sought out opportunities to find good items to sell, for example by offering to clear houses of people who had passed on or moved into residential care.

Churchwarden Jenny Sledge says, “Buckhorn Weston is a small village and not a wealthy one. The other great village institutions are the cricket club and the village hall, which also need to raise money.

“We just kept plugging away at small things, and it adds up in the end.”

She explained that parishioners were determined to get all these works carried out and leave the building in a better state than they found it. “It has been a long haul, but very satisfying to see the church looking so much better than it was,” she added.

That would be enough for some people, but maintenance bills never completely end, however, and now that the building is in good repair, watertight and ready to face another century of service to its community, the plan is to turn attention to restoring the bells.

After spending some £250,000 on the structure, the village now ‘only’ needs £65,000 to replace two of the six bells which are not in a good state and provide a new steel frame to hang them all in. This, they all hope, will be the last push to achieve all that they hoped to when the project started.

A remarkable achievement, which once again proves the maxim that small teams of determined people are the most powerful agents for changing the world for the better.

The Erskine-Mouton Trust Fund provides grants towards the cost of works to church buildings located in county of Dorset. The closing date for applications from Dorset parishes wishing to apply for grants from the next distribution is Friday 5 February. Further details and an application form are available from elizabeth.wallis@salisbury.anglican.org   or call 01722 438665

The Dorset Historic Churches Trust is another major supporter of church repairs, and also of new facilities like kitchens and toilets that can make churches more sustainable as places of worship and community service.

DHCT’s principal source of funds is the annual sponsored Ride+ Stride round the churches & chapels of Dorset. In 2017, 170 parishes took part, Ride+Stride raised £86,000. Ride+Stride also takes place in Wiltshire and around the country. This year’s event will take place on 8 September. Find out how to take part here.

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