Chairman's Summer Newsletter 2021

Mid year updates

As with last year, I felt that a Summer Newsletter would be of more use than my usual Autumn roundup and enable me to bring to bring Members up to date. Although some of the Covid numbers are still alarmingly high, it does look as though the end of the formal lockdown is over — at least for the time being.

We took an early decision to delay our Annual General Meeting until September and we are now scheduled to hold it at St Peter and St Paul, Newchurch at 2.30pm on 4 September. The formal Notice of Meeting is enclosed with this Newsletter. Sandra Howard, who has been endlessly forbearing, will finally get the opportunity to speak to us and we are hugely grateful to her for her patience. Sadly, it will not be possible to hold our traditional lunch beforehand but I hope that many of you will be able to stay for tea afterwards. Whilst realising that many of you will decide nearer the date whether to come or not, if you are planning to attend, it would be helpful if you could let Elizabeth Marshall know in advance. It will help with the catering arrangements.

Unfortunately, it has not been possible to hold any tours this year and this includes our Members Tours. Joan Campbell and her husband David have recently moved house and are now not quite so local, but she will be at the AGM and has promised to lead the Members Tours next year. I’m afraid that our annual service at Snave is also another casualty of the pandemic but again, I very much hope that we will be back again next year.

The past eighteen months have been a very difficult time for all churches, not least for those on the Marsh and to whom we provide support. Services curtailed or stopped altogether, visitor numbers a fraction of what they were and revenues from all sources sharply reduced. Nevertheless, throughout all this, their expenses have continued as buildings and churchyards have had to be maintained. Mindful of this, the Council felt that we should try to help as many churches as possible this year and although initially, we set a modest budget of £60,000, as soon as the applications started to come in, it became immediately clear that if we were going to be able to provide real assistance to the churches, that budget would be exceeded by quite some margin. To date, we have approved grants in excess of £80,000 to eleven of the churches we support, including the ruined church at Hope.

We expect more grants to follow during the course of the summer and into the autumn and I will be surprised if total grants for the year are not in excess of £100,000. Our finances are strong enough to handle this level of grants and I will provide more information and details in my Statement next year by which time we will have a far better idea of the final amounts and also what work has been carried out. As I’m sure many of you will have discovered, the building trade seems to have been busier than ever during this pandemic! Incidentally, when the Trust was established almost 40 years ago, we set out to raise £100,000 and to utilise the income generated to support the churches. In those far off days, one could get almost 10% on a cash deposit. How times have changed!

It seems ridiculous to be thinking about Christmas at this time of year but also enclosed with this Newsletter is our usual order form for our Christmas cards. We have three cards this year; a snow scene of Brenzett and an interior image of New Romney, both from photographs by David Campbell. This latter card is dedicated to the memory of our good friend and former Council Member, Mark Skilbeck who died earlier this year. Finally, we have a delightful picture of Snave, taken from a painting by Robin Reckitt. Perhaps as a result of the pandemic and a resurgence of card sending, we ran out of most of our cards last year so please get your orders in sooner than later! All cards are priced at £6 for ten cards.

It is very early days to say if we have really managed to put the difficulties of the past eighteen months behind us but one hopes that at the very least, the worst is over and whilst some of us worry over the extent to which the lockdown should or should not be lifted, it is worth reminding ourselves that these churches have seen it all before. The vast majority of them were built before the Black Death began to decimate the population of the Marsh!

Peter Anwyl-Harris