Thomas ‘Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard’ Gray’s Tercentenary

One of Buckinghamshire’s hidden gems has been brought to life by the Thomas Gray Anniversary Project.

Thomas Gray (26 December 1716 – 30 July 1771) was an English poet, letter-writer, classical scholar and academic. His Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard is arguably the most famous poem written in the English language and is believed to have been written in Stoke Poges, a village with which Gray had a close association throughout his life and where he was buried. 2016 marks Thomas Gray’s Tercentenary.

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St Giles’ Churchyard, Stoke Poges

Started in 2012, the project worked to restore Thomas Gray’s tomb in St Giles’ Churchyard, Stoke Poges, carry out conservation work on the Monument and introduce a new generation to that much-loved poem “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”.

Although nearly 5 metres high, the “plain, square block of stone of good size, without ornament or embellishment” which lies at the heart of the Thomas Gray Landscape in Stoke Poges is often overlooked.

This has now changed with the installation by the National Trust of the Thomas Gray Landscape board which welcomes visitors to the site and draws their attention to the legacy of this unassuming poet who penned one of the world’s most famous poems, “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”.

On 9 July 2016, the Bishop of Buckingham, the Rt. Revd Alan Wilson came to Stoke Poges to unveil the board and engage the attending audience with his explanation of the importance of this poem and its message concerning the contribution of every individual to the common good and the transitory nature of celebrity.

The Bishop of Buckingham studies the new information-board about Thomas Gray in Stoke Poges

The Bishop of Buckingham studies the new information-board about Thomas Gray in Stoke Poges

Diana le Clercq, a key player in organising the Stoke Poges Village Thomas Gray celebration was delighted to welcome volunteers who had worked on improving the landscape around the Monument and several of the children from Stoke Poges School who had participated in the Thomas Gray School Expeditions started in 2012.  Alex Kurtis who was there with his sister Sarah and their grandmother Pam Oliver is now a student at John Hampden School, founded in the name of a famous Buckinghamshire man who is mentioned in the Elegy.

“Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast

The little tyrant of his fields withstood”.

 

The Thomas Gray memorial

The Thomas Gray Memorial, Stoke Poges

Visitors enjoyed picnics by the Monument where the Burnham Concert Band played, tours of the Stoke Poges Memorial Gardens where teas were served by the Friends and visits to the Bell Tower after the bells rang out to invite people to attend the unveiling at 3 pm. The afternoon finished with a short programme of music and readings in St. Giles Church.  The day was the culmination of a project that started several years ago.

Readers interested to learn more about the Thomas Gray landscape are invited to attend the Stoke Poges Memorial Gardens Heritage walk which will take place on 11 September as part of Heritage Weekend.

More details

How to film a church spire

We’ve just launched our ‘Save our Spires’ campaign to raise much needed funds to help repair church spires at risk.

Save our Spires

Save our Spires

As part of the campaign we’ve produced a video to explain just why spires are so important. The amazing aerial photography in the film was produced by Kestrel-Cam, which provides remote aerial photography and video using radio-controlled UAVs, or drones, throughout the UK. The company uses the very latest multi-rotor drone aerial platforms, all equipped with professional stills cameras and video recording equipment. This allows them to offer aerial drone photography, filming and video services to a wide range of clients. The type of project that they can get involved in includes: photography and filming for estate agents, commercial property aerial photography, film & TV aerial video for the likes of the BBC, Channel 4 and Channel 5.

They are often asked to do aerial surveys of tall structures which would otherwise be difficult, or expensive, to reach.

In our case we asked Kestrel-Cam to come and take high definition video of the newly refurbished spire at St Michael and All Angels Church at Chetwynd.

The cost of erecting scaffold to gain access to such tall structures would be prohibitive but with these modern drones the job can be completed quickly and cost effectively.

In fact pretty much any sort of aerial photography can be achieved by these remotely piloted unmanned aerial vehicles which can legally fly up to 400 feet. What was once work for camera equipped helicopters can now be carried out by these high tech drones and at a fraction of the cost.

The company is CAA approved to do commercial aerial work within the UK and have been operating their drones for a little over 2 years.

Further information on the company can be found on their website

Or contact Duncan Armstrong – 07791 864890

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.

National Maintenance Week 2014

In a special post to mark the upcoming National Maintenance Week, guest author Kate Streeter Project Manager of SPAB Maintenance Cooperatives tells us about their plans for launching the week and encouraging ongoing maintenance.

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What do a ladle, rubber gloves and a pair of binoculars all have in common? They are all part of our cheap and cheerful essential maintenance kit, and this November we are going to show you how they can help you to take care of your place of worship at the very first Maintenance Co-operatives Project national conference: From Gutter to Spire. The conference is in York on Friday 21st November and tickets are free from www.spabmcp.org.uk

A stitch in time saves nine, and nowhere is this more true than for our places of worship, where we estimate that for every £1 not spent on planned preventative maintenance will likely cost £20 in emergency repairs.  This is where the Society for the protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) Maintenance Co-operative Project steps in.

clearing gullies at sgrawley.jpg largeThe project team are working hard in four regions (Cumbria, The North East, Lincolnshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire, and Dorset and Somerset) to bring together places of worship with volunteers who would like to assist with their upkeep, to form Maintenance Co-operatives.

Each co-operative is supported by a dedicated SPAB member of staff, offered tailor-made training and access to an array of resources.  The training begins by taking participants through the process of carrying out a condition survey and using this information to write an annual maintenance plan.  It also covers topics such as working with architects, dealing with damp and when to bring in professional help.

A year into the project and we have co-operatives springing up all across the country busily working to ensure the long-term future of their historic buildings.  We are delighted that many of the volunteers involved, places of worship, and representatives from our hugely supportive project partners (who include The National Churches Trust, Caring for Gods Acre, Arthur Rank Centre, English Heritage, and major funders the Heritage Lottery Fund) are coming together in York this November for the very first Maintenance Co-operatives conference.

blocked gully.jpg largeThis is a wonderful opportunity for those already involved to share ideas, and for those new to the project to find out more.  A packed scheduled of speakers from SPAB and our partners will be followed by fascinating York walking tours, the opportunity to put your maintenance concerns directly to our dedicated technical advisor, and of course a sociable drink in the pub to finish the day.

We very much hope that you can join us, tickets are free and there are a limited number of travel bursaries of up to £100 available to volunteers, so book soon!

Kate Streeter

SPAB Maintenance Co-operatives Project Manager

Protecting your church during building work

In this guest post from Neal James at Panthera Security, we take a look at securing your scaffolding, building work and church from unwanted visitors. In the light of several thefts and episodes of vandalism at churches with ongoing building projects, this post is particularly timely, and we hope very useful.

Hampshire, FROXFIELD GREEN, St Peter's on the Green (2013) #001

How to protect your project

By their very nature churches are community buildings and we believe they should remain so. We know that most churches are over a hundred years old, and consequently are often in need of reparation works.

We know that most churches have alarm systems now in place and that is fine for normal use.

However, when work to your church becomes necessary you will invariably need to have a scaffold erected to provide safe work at height access to the building.

By providing that safe access to your contractor, you have also provided it to other, less than welcome visitors!

nsi-goldPanthera Security, Part of the Panthera Group have worked with the National Security Inspectorate on raising awareness to this often overlooked problem, and in developing NCP115 the Code of Practice for the Design, Installation & Maintenance of Scaffolding Alarm Systems. Panthera Group is proud to say that after a rigorous auditing process, we are the UK’s first company to become NSI Gold approved installers.

It is important to understand that it is the installer that is approved, and not the equipment, as some are led to believe.

Non-approved installers can still install scaffold alarm systems, but they are not required to adhere to the Code of Practice, therefore they may install an insufficient amount of detectors, thereby leaving access points unprotected.

Using NSI Gold approved installers will negate that problem. We always ensure that all vulnerabilities are covered and will issue an NSI Certificate of Compliance once the installation is complete.

Greater Manchester, STOCKPORT, St Mary (Ian Hamilton 2007) #003Ecclesiastical Insurance already recommends the use of NSI approved companies for all other aspects of security, and we have recently been in discussion over the introduction of NCP115 and have been assured that it is the standard they are looking to set regarding the installation of Scaffold Alarm Systems.

NCP115 compliant systems are now being requested as standard by many Quantity Surveyors, Property Managers and Local Authorities.

Let’s spread the word… Protect Our Churches

Neal James, Panthera Security

 

 

Panthera Group Ltd is a member of our Professional Trades Directory, a listing of over 60 companies and services offering a wide range of trades people who can help you with  any part of your church, chapel or meeting house. 
 
The use of trade, firm or business names in the Professional Trades Directory is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an endorsement or approval by the National Churches Trust of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable.
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