Chairman’s Annual Report 2019

A report on progress of the Trust presented to the 2020 AGM

I feel sure Members will forgive me if I start this report on a sombre note; on two fronts. Our long serving Treasurer, Ian Meier, died at the end of January. He had not been in the best of health for quite some time but nevertheless continued to maintain the Trust’s financial records in perfect order and, typical of his dedication, at the time of his death, he had all but completed the accounts for the year. We all have good cause to be grateful to him and whilst we mourn his passing, I would like to place on record his outstanding contribution to the Trust over the last fifteen years. As well as looking after our finances, he was also very much “Mr Snave” and was dedicated to ensuring that the church was well maintained. Of course, we now need to find a replacement and if anyone would like to take on this rôle or knows anyone else who might be prepared to take it on, perhaps he or she could contact either Elizabeth Marshall at the Trust’s email address – to: secretary@romneymarshchurches.org.uk – or get in touch with any of the Members of the Council.
Secondly, the disruption caused by the Coronavirus outbreak has affected us all and the effects are likely to be with us for some time to come. Our finances will obviously have taken a hit and although the statements which accompany this report show a healthy position as at the end of 2019, members should be aware that the current value of the Trust’s assets will show a considerable fall. Additionally, our investment income is likely to be reduced during the current year as companies cut back on their dividend payments. It is too early to say what the longer term impact will be but I will update members in my Autumn newsletter.
Our finances aside, I am afraid that the Coronavirus has meant that we have had to cancel our Annual General Meeting, originally scheduled to be held at Newchurch on 16 May. We have a legal requirement to hold an AGM each year and our intention – at the time of writing – is to hold a brief meeting at Snave on 13 September when we hold our annual Thanksgiving Service. Sadly, there will be no lunch or speaker; we will just deal with the formalities and a Notice convening the meeting will be sent out separately. Our Members’ Tours, so ably run by Elizabeth Marshall and Joan Campbell are another casualty as are the tours run by John Hendy for outside groups but I am assured that both will return in 2021.
During the year we appointed Georgia Small to the Council and at our last meeting on 31 January, Celia Heritage was also appointed. At the same time John Waite has decided that it is time to hang up his hat. John has been a stalwart member of the Council for as long as anyone can remember and whilst we thank John for his contributions over many years, we extend our welcome to Georgia and Celia.
Our membership remains constant at around 1,100 with leavers more or less matching joiners. Development of our website continues and my thanks must go to Joanne Thomson, Nick Hudd, David Hanbury and also Ian for their considerable efforts.
The Trust made grants totalling £100,000 during the year; ahead of our budget of £80,000 but as always, based on the needs of the churches. The most significant of these were towards costs arising from their most recent quinquennial inspections and reports at All Saints, Lydd (£25,000) and St Augustine, Brookland (£23,700). In addition, a grant of £16,000 was made to St George’s Ivychurch to install lightning conductors and grants of approximately £18,000 and £6,000 respectively to St Augustine, Snave and St Mary-in-the Marsh for work which included repairs to their pews. In all, ten out of the fourteen churches we support applied for and received grants during the year and it is extremely gratifying that not only have we been able to provide such significant financial support to these churches but in many instances, we have succeeded in funding their entire request. Since the start of the new millennium the Trust has made grants in excess of £1.2m and whilst the upkeep of these beautiful buildings remains a challenge and there is always more to do, overall the churches are in excellent condition.
I know I have mentioned this in the past but Ian Meier’s death is a timely reminder to us all that over the years the Trust has benefited from the generosity of all those who has given their time for free. Currently, this includes Elizabeth Marshall our secretary, David Hanbury, our Membership secretary and John Hendy who looks after our tours. Whether we will be able to continue with unpaid volunteers is unclear. In a number of areas, specialist advice and skills are now needed. Regulatory oversight of our accounts, maintenance of our website and online banking facilities may require levels of expertise that we cannot source through volunteers and modest payments to professionals in those areas may be necessary.
Once again, sales of our Christmas cards have been very strong with the “Angels” from East Guldeford being a notable success. This year we have three new cards – a photograph of Fairfield from John Hendy, a painting of Newchurch from John Doyle and a collage from David Campbell. My thanks go to all three contributors.
In my Autumn Newsletter I referred to Her Royal Highness, Princess Alexandra’s visit to the Marsh last year. For a relatively small trust such as ours, this was a great honour and privilege and we were delighted that she was able to spend time with us and visit a number of the churches we support. A considerable amount of planning is involved with a royal visit and I am so grateful to all those who helped to make it possible.
Thanks in part, to some very welcome publicity, last year’s Thanksgiving Service at Snave was extremely well attended with virtually standing room only. The date for this year’s service is Sunday 13 September and provided we are indeed able to hold it, I hope it will prove popular again. As I mentioned earlier in my statement, our provisional planning is to hold a brief formal Annual General Meeting on the same day to be immediately followed by the service itself.
As always, the Trust is hugely grateful to you, our Members who so generously support us. These are difficult and challenging times for all of us and my sincere hope is that all members and their families come through this unscathed and normal service can be resumed as soon as possible. One thing is certain; these churches have lived through wars and pestilence and will undoubtedly survive.

Peter Anwyl-Harris
Chairman

Summarised Financial Statements 2019

You may view and print the Summarised Financial Statement