It is always a delight to receive the annual card and newsletter from the Friends of Hope Parish Church because they are a dedicated team of volunteers who have done a great deal to preserve and present some of the key features of our heritage which can be seen within the Church.
The term ‘volunteers’ should be stressed because with a heritage going back as far as the time of the ancient Celtic Cross which is now safely preserved within the wall of the Lady Chapel, the Church has relied on generation after generation of unsung heroes and heroines who have come forward to play a role in the life of the Church at the heart of the community. Church folk are probably the most ‘taken for granted’ group of volunteers that ever existed!
The particular team who make up the committee of Friends are not themselves experts on aspects of conservation and restoration but have become adept in accessing funds, from a variety of pots, in order to commission the services of those who do possess that expertise. Thus we have seen, since 2013, work having been done to preserve the ancient Celtic Cross, conservation work on the Sir John Trevor memorials, conservation of the “George III” Coat of Arms memorial, the installation of a new stained glass panel in the windows by the pulpit and conservation of the 18th Century Benefaction Board.
Taking on de facto management of a highly significant heritage building may, at first sight, appear to be a rather daunting enterprise. However, the Friends appear to have taken on board one of the maxim’s of good management: “If you are going to eat an elephant do it one bite at a time!” They are systematically working their way round the Church to identify new projects, access the funding to address the issues and then working with those who have the expertise to complete the tasks.
Not resting on their laurels, the Friends have a vision for how the Church experience can be improved in the future. The Diocesan building inspection Quinquennial report has confirmed that the ancient outer west door is in need of repair. This is likely to include work on the surrounding stonework. In addition the Friends would like to improve the inner door to provide a more inviting view of the Church as well as reduce the draft. They are awaiting proposals from the Church Architect on this before applying for funding.
Then, of course, there are the three areas of exposed wall texts which have been discussed in a previous article by Allan Poynton. After seeking advice from the Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments for Wales the Friends contacted Dr Andrea Kirkham, a registered conservator, who subsequently examined the wall texts. They are believed to date from around 1630, as does the pulpit. She also found evidence of earlier texts which are partly exposed. The Friends are awaiting Andrea’s official report so that they can assess the cost implications of any suggested conservation work. It is certainly exciting to see aspects of our heritage being cared for in this way.
Volunteers alluded to in the early part of this article have included a succession of members of the local community who have wound the clock tower on a regular basis. It is actually an increasingly onerous job so those involved may be rather pleased to learn that they could be the latest group to be made redundant as a result of automation! It seems likely that this work will be carried out by Smiths of Derby, the company who maintain the clock, once the necessary permissions have been granted. The Friends have expressed their gratitude to the family of the late Russell Fidler, a keen amateur horologist for sponsoring this work.
The Friends have a detailed guide for those who visit the Church but they are also working on a set of laminated sheets which can be used by visitors for walks around the building. These are likely to be available for the first “Welcome Afternoon” of 2018 on Saturday 10th March (check the date on the website nearer the time to confirm the date and time.)
On a somewhat more mundane but nevertheless necessary level the Friends have supported repairs to the drains and roof to the value of £243.75.
There are currently 57 members of Friends of Hope Parish Church and the Friends are keen to recruit more. Given the track record of this group in helping to preserve key features of our heritage I would certainly wish to put my weight behind such an appeal.
I would like to thank Liz Poynton for allowing me to use information from the informative newsletters which she has produced.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523.