National Rural Crime Network survey

Police at churchSadly, our beautiful places of worship are sometimes victims of crime.

Thanks to the many dedicated organisations helping to care for and support places of worship much progress has been made in keeping heritage crime, including attacks on places on worship, on the national police agenda. However, we need to keep up the good work.

In response to concerns from people living and working in rural areas, the National Rural Crime Network is launching the biggest ever survey of rural policing and crime, and we hope that the results will provide evidence to support our pressure to make places of worship as great a priority as farm theft and other issues with which the police are more familiar.

The National Rural Crime Network survey has received Home Office funding to undertake the rural crime and policing survey. The on-line survey will run for about five weeks and it is hoped that the findings will help shape and inform:

  • awareness of crime in rural areas
  • appropriate crime prevention
  • government policy
  • policing and partnership activities

The survey provides an opportunity to raise public awareness of crime and anti-social behaviour within the historic environment and to provide data to  help the police to integrate heritage crime into their core business and working practices. Although it is a national project and clearly not aimed specifically at places of worship it does give everyone the chance to make their case and it would be good if the places of worship perspective could be well represented in responses.

If you care for a place of worship in a rural area, please consider taking part in the survey:

http://www.nationalruralcrimenetwork.net/research/internal/national-rural-crimes-survey-2015/?member=NorthYorkshire

 

For more information about security and personal safety in places of worship please explore our new website Resource Centre.

And for some recent good news from the Churches Conservation Trust, showing that stolen items can indeed be recovered by Police if they have enough information.

Church buildings: burden, blessing and an asset for mission

Together with many Dioceses and some other national organisations we were lucky enough to receive funding from English Heritage for a Places of Worship Support Officer. Although this programme has now finished many regional PoWSO’s have been kept on by Dioceses and are continuing to give much needed support and advice to the churches they work with.

Here we welcome guest writer Andrew Mottram to introduce a new report written jointly by PoWSO’s in the West Midlands area. A discussion document based on their experience in the Dioceses of Hereford, Lichfield and Worcester from 2009 to 2015, the report is full of content and ideas which may be relevant to churches and those who care for them across the UK.

St Luke, Reddall Hill, Cradley Heath (Andrew Mottram)

Since 2011 up to seven PoWSO’s in West Midlands and Wales have met regularly and found that there were common problems frustrating their work to support Church congregations struggling with their buildings.

In addition to a widespread lack of understanding about the benefits of preventative maintenance, the main issues are the Church of England’s structures and legislative requirements – from the appointment of clergy to the closure process, all of which can hinder the effective management of church buildings.

In 2014 “I wouldn’t start from here” was produced by the four West Midlands PoWSO’s as a discussion document shared with other PoWSO’s in England. There was general agreement that the problems identified were common across the country but there were innovative solutions being considered in some dioceses.

CBBBAM is a summary of the previous discussion document and offers solutions to the issues raised. In summary there are too many buildings for the people available to manage them. This leads to neglect and to assets becoming liabilities. There needs to be a strategic approach to managing buildings, ensuring that there are creative solutions to surplus buildings and effective support for parishes in the management of their buildings.

Andrew Mottram

Download the report here.

The perfect beeswax polish

In a guest blog, Steve Whatling of Cambridge Traditional Products tells us about how to make the perfect beeswax polish. If you are a church that wants to use beeswax polish to restore old pews, choir-stalls and natural wood carvings please see the bottom of this post to find out how you can obtain it free of charge from Cambridge Traditional Products.

Beeswax

Beeswax

Cambridge Traditional Products Ltd. was established in 1979 by Adrian Perkins, a retired teacher, and part time beekeeper. Adrian had discovered an original Victorian recipe for beeswax polish, and when he tried it, he realised he had something special. He started producing polish from home, and within a few years the popularity of his polish necessitated a move to proper premises and full time production.

For more than 35 years we have produced polish to that same recipe. This means that apart from pure filtered beeswax, our polish also contains Pure Gum Turpentine. This is something we are particularly proud of, as most other producers of similar products switched to white spirit a few years ago when the price of turpentine rose dramatically. We made a decision then to stick with the original ingredients – I did not feel we could describe the polish as “traditional” if one of the key ingredients was a modern substitute. My belief was that people would be prepared to pay a little more for real quality. Fortunately this has proven to be the case.

Bottling polish

Bottling polish

Turpentine is a sustainable organic product, tapped from pine trees, like rubber once was. It has a much more beneficial effect on wood than white spirit, which is a by-product of the petroleum industry. For more on this, see my blog.

Cambridge Traditional polish is a cream, as opposed to a paste polish. Paste polishes tend to come in a tin, and are quite hard, like shoe polish. A cream polish is easier to use, as a little can be applied at a time and, generally, less elbow grease is required to buff it up.

Creating a cream polish presents its own challenges, as it involves making an emulsion. This can be quite tricky to get right, as various factors contribute to the quality of the end product. Firstly, the beeswax has to be of the correct specification, or it will not emulsify properly. The key ingredients are then heated in separate tanks. In one tank the waxes are dissolved in turpentine, and in the other, raw soap is dissolved in water. The two heated mixtures are then mixed into a stirring vat to cool.

Bottling the polish

The following day, we “bottle” the polish into jars, which are then weighed and labelled by hand and packed for shipping.

We produce a neutral beeswax polish, and a brown version. The neutral polish is the most popular, as it can be applied to any kind of bare wood. (I always emphasise “bare” wood, as there is little point in using our polish on something that has been varnished or lacquered; the real purpose of a traditional beeswax polish is to soak in and feed the wood).

The brown polish is great for enhancing the grain on darker woods. It is also useful as a subtle stain on light wood such as pine, and is remarkably effective when used to hide staining damage, such as can be caused by sun bleaching, or the effect of a hot cup being placed onto a table top.  View examples

We also produce pure beeswax sticks, which have a remarkable range of uses. One of these is as a traditional protection for zips , particularly in the sub-aqua industry, which led to the development of “Zip-Slip”, our specialist zip lubricant.

Another specialist product, related to the polish, is our “Timber Reviver”. This was developed at the request of a builder working for English Heritage, and is a beeswax and turpentine solution designed to be brushed onto old dried out timber beams, to protect and enhance the wood.

Wood in churches

Yorkkshire, HUDDERSFIELD, St Peter (Sarah Crossland 2012) #067In an article by the British Antique Furniture Restorers Association about the  care of historic furniture and fixed woodwork in churches.it states: “Only use a good quality, unstained beeswax with Turpentine polish”. It is the perfect thing for preserving and enhancing pews, decorative carvings or any other old wood in churches.

Some time ago, Adrian and I travelled to St-Mary-Le-Tower church in Ipswich. An old friend of Adrian’s was using our polish to renovate some amazing 19th century carvings in local oak, by Theodore Pfyffers. The carvings on the choir stalls, of angels playing musical instruments, and the Evangelists in their symbolic animal forms, are particularly impressive, and the effect of the polish is striking. See photos

Seeing the work being done, and feeling proud that our polish is being used to enhance such beautiful carvings inspired an idea. We currently have quite a bit of polish stored that we refer to as “factory seconds”. This polish is every bit as good (in terms of what it does) as the polish we sell, it just doesn’t look as good in the jar, and we have very high standards. So we decided to make this polish available, free, to charity renovation projects. There is more info on this on our website

How to apply for polish
If you would like to apply for some of this polish please contact us at  www.cambridgetraditionalproducts.co.uk and tell us about your project.

Now photography IS allowed – at St Paul

Now photography IS allowed – at St Paul’s Cathedral for one night only 8th April http://www.ianvisits.co.uk/blog/2015/03/09/rare-chance-to-photograph-inside-st-pauls-cathedral/

Churches and family history

Blog Pam Smith08In a guest posting, professional genealogist Pam Smith  writes about the importance of churches for family history.

Discovering your forebears, where they originated from and what they did for a living is a fascination held by many. The popular BBC series ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ in which celebrities trace their ancestry, has stimulated many people to research their family history, making it an extremely addictive and popular hobby.

Television programmes such as these give the impression that it is very easy to find your ancestors with a few clicks of the mouse on a computer, and indeed it can be a reasonably straightforward process to trace back to approximately 1770 and more using both free and subscription websites.

However, it is worth reflecting upon the important role churches and chapels have had and continue to play in keeping the information needed by anyone interested in discovering their family history.

Parish chests

The Anglican church kept parish registers of baptisms, marriages and burials since 1538 when Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s Vicar General ordered parishes to keep these records in a triple locked parish chest such as this fine specimen currently resident in St John of Beverley at Salton.

Parish chest at St John of Beverly at Salton (c) Pam Smith

Parish chest at St John of Beverly at Salton (c) Pam Smith

The incumbent was responsible for keeping the records secure although these wooden chests were often prone to damp and vermin. Today, any of these registers or parish records such as vestry minutes, churchwardens’ accounts, in which the earliest entry is over 150 years old, must be deposited in the Diocesan Record Office. North Yorkshire is mostly covered by the Borthwick Institute at the University of York. If you are lucky it is possible to see a sexton’s book of burials which literally marks the spot. You can imagine the scope of name-rich sources contained within these documents, recording all the significant events in a person’s life, which had the parish church at the very core.

After 1837, the state took over responsibility for recording births, marriages and deaths both locally and centrally. However the practice of recording baptisms, marriages and some burials (where the churchyard is still in use) still continues to the present day. Some vicars and church wardens are amenable to these records being viewed and some charge a fee.

Churchyards

The churchyard and the interior of the church contain valuable information in the form of a memorial or monumental inscription. Most people were buried in their local parish and a headstone may be found there. Some graves were filled with unrelated people who could not afford a headstone so the occupants were not commemorated. A higher status ancestor may have a monument inside the church. Both internal and external memorial inscriptions (MIs) offer rich detail of the life of a family member. This MI in the St Andrew’s Church in Rillington (pictured below) gives not only the date of death and age of Laurence Stratford, but also his occupation and details about his father, helping the researcher back a further generation.

Many churches hold a roll of honour commemorating the local people who fought during the Great War and the Second World War. Often you can find a list of incumbents which is an ideal starting point for researching clerical ancestors.

 St Andrew's Church Rillington - MI for Laurence Stratford inside porch  (c) Pam Smith

St Andrew’s Church Rillington – MI for Laurence Stratford inside porch (c) Pam Smith

My main area of research is in North Yorkshire and the former North Riding of Yorkshire. We are very fortunate that most rural churches are left unlocked for visitors during the day. I find them an invaluable source of research. An interior photo can help bring life to a set of genealogical data when one can imagine where an ancestor was christened, married and had their funeral service.

I have a collection of leaflets from different churches which, for a small fee, have produced details of the history of the building and a guide to the churchyard. Parish magazines hold a depth of information about community life including names and significant dates of the inhabitants together with snippets of local life presuming that a churchwarden has kept a copy of each one.

Pam Smith is a professional genealogist and a family history tutor based in Harrogate, North Yorkshire who also manages the Rillington One-Place Study.  For further details please contact Pam Smith on 0790 485 6099 or email pam@pamsmithfamilyhistorian.co.uk

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