Making our churches matter

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Two historic churches in Chronicle country have been given a helping hand by The Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Historic Churches Trust (BHHCT).

St Mary’s Church in Henlow and St Edmund’s in Blunham, have both rceived grants in the past 12 months for repair and restoration work.

Parts of the Henlow parish church are thought to have been built around the 11th century, with its distinctive tower being built in the 15th century.

The grant from the BHHCT has helped replace masonry at the building.

Archie Russell, of the BHHCT said: “Our focus is on ‘care and repair’. Encouraging the process of stewardship and advising on eligibility and funding is frequently key to parish communities moving forward with urgent remedial work.”

Without the Trust’s support, St Edmund’s in Blunham, which also has parts of its building going back to the 11th century. would have found it difficult to complete their repairs. Following a grant to repair the roof, the commencement of works revealed further, unanticipated structural issues. The costs were significant and yet again the Trust stepped in to provide the initial funding that allowed the project to happen.

The church is now once again serving the community in which it sits.

The BHHCT was established in 1991 to raise and manage funds for the repair and restoration of cherished, yet often fragile places of fellowship and friendship. Since then, it has distributed over £4 million to churches across the two counties, at a rate of about £250,000 each year. Its grants programme has been generously funded by membership fees, the Wixamtree Trust and the ever-popular Bike ‘n’ Hike event, which attracts enthusiastic support from all ages.

During the past 12 months, the Trust has made grants to 27 churches and chapels for a wide range of repair and restoration purposes.

But Heritage Lottery Fund grants for places of worship are set to be absorbed into the HLF’s main grants programme from September, with fears that many churches face uncertain times. The Trust sees this as an opportunity to celebrate the evolving role of churches in the communities they serveand hopes to send an important message to government that, for so many reasons, Britain’s historic churches matter.