aspiring waldron fundraisers achieve £70k target

Waldron celebrates this week as scaffolding is taken down from the tower of the 800-year-old church.

This was marked by a ‘signing off’ ceremony where major players in the campaign to raise enough money to carry out repairs joined craftsmen and architects to celebrate their achievement.

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When a 2009 inspection of the 800-year-old All Saints revealed extensive damage to the roof of the ancient belfry, repairs were costed at about £70,000.

The Parish Council did not have that kind of money but, as local resident Valerie Chidson said; “Beneath the sleepy surface of Waldron and its surrounding parish beats an indomitable heart; given a challenge its residents rise up and get on with it.”

Villagers decided to get together and raise the money somehow. A new association, the Friends of Waldron Churches, was formed at the end of 2010 and set to work.

A committee was elected in March 2011 and put together an ambitious programme of events and fund-raising ideas.

A cookbook was published and sold in its hundreds. The Royal Wedding was celebrated with a street party and raffle. There was a golf day, concert, sponsored walk and four-day village Christmas with a street market and raft of children’s events.

By the end of the first year Friends had raised £28,000.

Last year began with a disappointment when English Heritage refused a grant application, despite the Church’s Grade I listing, although they sent a letter emphasising the church building was at risk.

Valerie Chidson, by now chairman of the Friends, went on: “To be told something had to be done about the desperately needed repairs but with no help offered was a blow but it made us all the more determined to do the job ourselves.”

During 2012 the Friends put on another list of events with the Jubilee celebrations at its heart. Another street party raised over £4,000, a sponsored walk was again a big draw and much enjoyed, there was an organ concert and another concert of Elizabethan music. Household change boxes earned hundreds of pounds.

By autumn enough had been raised to start work with a loan from the PCC’s small reserves and while the village Christmas brought large numbers of families to Waldron again, the scaffolding was up round the tower and stonemasons were hard at work.

Just in time the stonework was repaired, new timbers were swung into place, roof tiles went on and as the snow began to fall two weeks ago the tower was once again weathertight and weatherproof. The work was signed off by church architect Robin Nugent last week and villagers heaved a sign of relief.

A spokesman said: “The Friends have only been in existence for just over two years but with a building this old and beautiful there will always be work to be done to keep it in good repair for future generations. And of course we have our other church in the parish, St Bartholomews, to keep an eye on too.”