St Denis, East Hatley –
Friends of Friendless Churches
finally acquires the building
Words and photographs Peter Mann
At 3.00 pm on 30th November 2016, St Denis' church, East Hatley, was conveyed to its new owner, the Friends of Friendless Churches from South Cambridgeshire District Council.
And at 6.28 pm on a rather wet 11th July 2017, a symbolic key to the church was handed over from SCDC to the FoFC during a delightful ceremony organised by Hatley Parish Council to commemorate the occasion, as our photos show (click on the pictures for larger images):
▲ South Cambridgeshire District Council's deputy leader, Cllr Nick Wright (left) handing a ceremonial key to St Denis' church, East Hatley, to Roger Evans, Chairman of The Friends of Friendless Churches on 11th July 2017. Click on the photos for larger images.
▲ The Trustees of the Friends of Friendless Churches. L to R: Richard Halsey MBE (FoFC exec trustee), Rev'd Alex Barrow (FoFC exec trustee), Rev'd Philip Gray (FoFC exec trustee), District Councillor Sebastian Kindersley, Roger Evans (FoFC Chairman), District Councillor Nick Wright and Peter Scott (FoFC Treasurer).
▲ Sebastian Kindersley speaking during the ceremony when he thanked the many people who had made the handover to FoFC possible.
▲ Roger Evans, Chairman, Friends of Friendless Churches (left) also thanked everyone.
▲ Margot Eagle, chairman of Hatley Parish Council, who organised the celebration, centre, talking to Gamlingay District Councillor Bridget Smith. Mark Wilshire (background) and Margot also provided the marquee – thankfully, given the weather.
▲ Margot (centre) gave the opening introduction...
▲ ...listening to Sebastian's speech. Photo: Kim Wilde.
Some of the 50 people who came to the event...
...young as well as old.
Following the handing over ceremony on 11th July, a report of the occasion appeared in several local papers - click on the various links embedded in the montage above or on these links:
When the Friends of Friendless Churches (FoFC) announced on 4 December 2013 it '...would be willing to take the freehold of the Grade II* listed church of St Denis, East Hatley and safeguard it in perpetuity', little did we expect it to take three years before it finally took it off the hands of SCDC.
Its e-mail to SCDC, the then owners of the building, continued: 'However this is necessarily a complicated process and there are a number of matters that fall to be dealt with before the conveyance can be effected.'
And of these 'matters', funding was the key issue, for although SCDC agreed a dowry for St Denis of £60,000 (click for a link to the appropriate SCDC meeting report), it fell slightly short of what FoFC was expecting
However, local pledges amounting to the best part of £3,000, including £500 from Hatley Parish Council and a similar sum from Gamlingay and Hatley Parochial Church Council, gave FoFC the confidence to proceed with its desire to take on St Denis'.
We are very fortunate St Denis' has been given over to FoFC, for it is the only organisation whose particular remit is to safeguard redundant churches – buildings which have been a constant in village communities for over 1,000 years.*
The Friends of Friendless Churches is keen to begin the first phase of new restoration work – all external repairs, reglazing (using salvaged stained glass) and providing a new floor to permit some chaperoned use of the interior.
The latter would include full retention of the medieval roof timbers which William Butterfield reused as 'sleepers' under the floor when he restored the church in the 1870s – with glass panels to allow some of them to be seen.
Later, when funds permit, the FoFC will restore the interior to essentially as it was when Butterfield's work was completed.
That's for the future, of course.
▲ The Trustees of the Friends of Friendless Churches among those on a site visit to St Denis, East Hatley, 26 November 2013. L to R: Rev'd Steven Rothwell, David Bevan (SCDC Conservation Officer who 'introduced' FoFC to the Council), Richard Smith (FoFC), Roger Evans (Chairman FoFC), Howard Pool (FoFC), Peter Scott (FoFC Treasurer), Richard Halsey MBE (FoFC), Joyce Denby (local resident), Stephanie Norris (Project Architect, Purcell UK) Councillor Nick Wright, Matthew Saunders MBE (FoFC), Councillor Sebastian Kindersley, Sir Paul Britton (FoFC) and Sebastian's dog, Bracken. Click on the picture for the full caption.
Click here for details of St Denis' restoration in 2005.
St Denis – flyer about the church (July 2017).
* Friends of Friendless Churches – website. "We are," they say, "a very small charity which saves redundant historic churches. We now own over 40 former places of worship, half in England, half in Wales, which we preserve as peaceful spaces for visitors and the local community to enjoy. Most are medieval, and all of them are listed."