LET’S BE honest – old friends are great: reliable, trusty, usually there when we want them. They accept us and we them, warts and all! The trouble is, with work, family and other commitments, it’s sadly so easy to take them for granted or even ignore, neglect or forget them.
Now, old friends don’t just have to be people … The ‘old friend’ in the title is the reason more than some of us, young or old, were attracted to Widford in the first place and few will deny she remains our best known and loveliest landmark. We mean of course the 12th century building, surroundings and history that make our Village Church – quite literally – ‘historic’ and unique! The problem is that she, like all old buildings, is constantly fighting a battle against decay and it probably won’t come as much of a surprise to hear that the Church’s own coffers are constantly struggling to pay for the works required.
This applies to Widford as much as it does to many fine churches, chapels and cathedrals across the land. This was also to some extent the case some 30 years ago when a group of unpaid volunteers in the Village set up an independent charity called The Friends of Widford Church, whose purpose was, and remains to this day, the preservation of the Church’s historic building and environment by raising as much additional funding as possible.
Monies raised through membership subscriptions, donations and many fund-raising activities have helped fund work as diverse as replacement stonework for windows and doors, and for the War Memorial lychgate, clock repairs, remedying dampness in the chancel wall, an archaeological dig during which Saxon remains were discovered and the creation of a headstone for the grave in which they were re-buried; and, most recently, expenses entailed by the acquisition of land to extend the cemetery, and the hedging around it.
“SO WHAT’S NEW?” you might ask. Well, the Friends and our small group of voluntary committee members have received an infusion of new people and new ideas. These ‘new’ people, whether new to the Village or in some cases longstanding residents, have joined up for a variety of reasons such as “growing concern over the building’s increasing and visible decay and its urgent need for help” (Jo K) to “wanting to preserve probably the first and certainly the finest building we saw when moving here” (Richard & Kerry B, David A). Others simply “love the Village and want somehow to make a worthwhile contribution to all that’s best about it”.
What is not new is the kind of people we want to join us as Friends and supporters: our appeal goes out to everyone in the Village and elsewhere, old or young, whether or not you are church-goers, Christians, holders of other faiths, agnostics, atheists or whatever. We have to ‘do our bit’ to fight to preserve our history for this generation and those that will follow.
Fine words alone are not enough, though, so we are re-launching the Friends with a host of exciting events appealing to all tastes over the next 12 months. A refreshed website will, we hope, go live fairly soon, with up-to-date news of events, projects to be funded, a history page, contacts and galleries doing justice to the Church buildings and other Village views. A new colour pamphlet promoting the Friends has been printed and will be dropped through letter boxes shortly. Door-to-door collections for subscriptions and other donations from existing and new Friends will begin again soon.
The last fund-raising event, ‘Down Memory Lane’ on Friday 21st September, was very successful and we are planning more things in the run-up to Christmas.
For more information please contact Peer Towers (Membership Sec) tel: 842265; email: membership@friendsofwidfordchurch; or David Austin, Richard Bearman, Jill and Michael Buck, Gilda Deterding, Mark Dunstan, Jo King, Frances Luck, Sara Saunders.
A parting thought: Old friends who are taken for granted or feel ignored or neglected often slip away or disappear for good. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen to our historic old friend!
David Austin Chairman, Steering Committee
Friends of Widford Church – Preserving Historic Widford Reg. Charity no.278965