The snowdrops are out, spring is coming and we are heading towards Easter. Many of you will be aware that Stowey Church has some large, nationally important, murals painted by Henry Strachey in the early years of the 20th century. Local people were used as models for the figures in the murals. Strachey was an innovator, experimenting with new materials and techniques; and he was a major influence on his 2nd cousin, Duncan Grant, a prominent member of the Bloomsbury Group, who painted the murals in St Michael and All Angels, Berwick, East Sussex.
We have been working for some time on a project to conserve and stabilise the murals and our very rare and fine Royal Arms of James 1, dated 1624. This must have been hidden away for 30 years or so, as it survived the beheading of Charles 1 and the Commonwealth of Oliver Cromwell, only to reappear with the much clearer date of 1660, when the monarchy was restored and Charles 11 crowned.
The project, called Stowey Revived, will also include extensive masonry and conservation stonework repairs to the C14th tower; and the development of a very small hospitality structure in the churchyard, to house an accessible WC and kitchen, for which an application for planning consent has been submitted.
The cost of the project will be significant. It will require us to make applications for grant funding from many different organisations, including the National Heritage Lottery Fund. We will also have to undertake fund-raising locally.
A recent survey by the National Churches Trust has demonstrated that 75% of adults believe that churches and chapels are important to society. The same number believe that they are important part of the UK’s heritage and history. But the fact is that the responsibility for looking after them falls on a few individuals who are volunteers. Those of us who look after Stowey Church are determined to ensure that it continues to be a place of Christian worship for future generations, but also that it can be “revived” so as to make it accessible to a much wider community and used and enjoyed by many more people of all ages for a range of educational and recreational activities.
We will be undertaking a survey of Stowey parishioners and others in due course. But we wanted to invite you to give me any initial thoughts and comments or questions at this stage. Please do contact me by email (see contacts page), or phone (01275 333456); or by the contact form on this website.