Volunteers' Week - Warm welcomes, long-standing support and limewash
This Volunteers Week we’ve been highlighting some of the great projects and activities led by amazing people who voluntarily give their time to help us look after historic churches. Due to the current Covid-19 crisis, our churches are all closed. However, that does not mean that the efforts of volunteers and Friends groups should go unrecognised. Without volunteers, CCT would not be able to care for its churches, raise the funds it requires, develop vital links to local communities, and, under usual circumstances, welcome visitors into our churches. In our final Volunteers Week blog, we are turning our attention to Hampshire, Bristol and Sunderland.
Support in all weathers
William Dove has been caring for Holy Trinity Church in Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, for an incredible 31 years. Bill plants flowers in spring and summer, empties water tanks twice weekly, cleans up, gives talks and tours, buys the refreshments, replaces broken windows and arranges flowers for local people to commemorate occasions. Bill, who lives nearby, has even been known to rush out overnight to tackle leaks during storms.
This February Bill was named Volunteer of the Year: North, at CCT’s Volunteer and Community Day in Birmingham. Bill’s love and dedication to the Holy Trinity is clear to all those who meet him. Holy Trinity Church is currently undergoing a £4.3 million project to repair and regenerate the church, supported by Heritage Fund, which will transform the church into, a stunning cultural venue. Before the current situation, Bill could still be found tending the gardens near the church and sharing stories about Holy Trinity's unique history.
A warm welcome
Before lockdown, St John on the Wall in Bristol was opened and run by a team of dedicated volunteers from Tuesday to Saturday. 2019 was a busy year for St John’s, with visitor numbers increasing from 10,736 to 11,930, largely due to efforts from the 24 strong team of volunteer stewards who opened the church over 294 days of the year.
One of these volunteers is James Giles, who was awarded the Young Volunteer of the Year award at CCT’s National Volunteer and Community Day in February. St John’s is, of course, closed at the moment, but last year James completed his Duke of Edinburgh Bronze award at the church, acting as a Visitor Welcome Volunteer with the support of his mother. James joined St John’s team of regular volunteers in opening the church to visitors on weekends between October 2018 and May 2019, allowing hundreds of visitors to see this beautiful building.
What a difference a day makes
Last September the community of Ashley in Hampshire produced a willing team of volunteers who rolled up their sleeves for a very successful lime-wash day at St Mary’s Church. Ashely has a population of roughly 72 people, so nine volunteers (and two dogs) was a remarkable turnout for the day. The group worked under the guidance of Meriel O’Dowd, Conservation Manager, and James Routledge, West Estate Officer, to set up the scaffold tower to give the west wall a much-needed facelift.
The Friends have also worked with CCT to resolve issues with the electric system by funding and commissioning an inspection report, and later overseeing the completion of the works by a local contractor in January. These efforts mean that even though St Mary’s Church is currently closed, those walking by can still enjoy the freshly lime-washed exterior of this twelfth-century church set amongst the trees.
Thank you to all our volunteers and all the Friends groups across England who help support CCT in caring for historic churches. If you would like to support CCT during these uncertain times, please consider donating at visitchurches.org.uk/donate.