History & Achievements

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Reflections on the First Ten Years of The Friends of St. Dionysius Church, Market Harborough

Foundation Years 1990 – 1998

When I was appointed Church Architect in 1980, one of my first tasks was to carry out the Quinquennial Inspection [the Church Authorities require inspection of the condition of all Church of England churches to be carried out every five years by a qualified person]. As a result of this inspection, I had the unhappy task of reporting that maintenance and repair works costing many tens of thousands of pounds would be required.

Major restoration took place between 1983 and 1987 funded largely by an appeal to the public of the town and the world [see the commemorative stained glass east window of the south aisle]. Whilst this was a great success, further deterioration of the building was inevitable and I had become concerned about how to build up funds needed in anticipation of further works.

I became convinced that a new organization ‘Friends of St. Dionysius’ could be a source of additional ‘ring-fenced funds’ to assist in monitoring the integrity of the church fabric and contributing to its maintenance. These funds would be additional to those in the Fabric Fund controlled by the Church Council.

Advice was readily available in a booklet published by Sue Rennison [former Stewardship Adviser, Diocese of Canterbury]. Three different approaches were offered and, after much thought, it was decided to form The Friends as an independent Charitable Trust with its own constitution, officers and funds.

A founding committee was set up including Joan Williams, Tony Willis, Cedric Ashton and me. The creation period was lengthy and in 1996 the embryonic Friends became a reality. Later John Gilding was invited to become Chairman. His team evolved to include eleven other Friends. Eight of them served on The Friends Committee and all of them worked actively, enthusiastically and co-operatively to support the cause.

The Friends was registered under the Charities Act of 1993. The Charities Commission confirmed its approval of the foundation of The Friends on 11 March 1998, having been advised that The Friends had complete discretion in deciding whether requests from the Church Council for funding assistance met The Friends constitutional criteria. Funds donated to or raised by The Friends are kept in a separate account controlled by its Treasurer and Trustees and are used solely for monitoring the integrity of and maintaining the quality of the church fabric. Annually in mid-February the Chairman and the Committee report on the year's activities and present the Accounts to Friends and other interested citizens at the AGM for their approval.

Implementation Years 1998 – 2009

The means of achieving the additional funds of the original vision are outlined in the Constitution as ‘arranging and providing [optionally with other parties] exhibitions, concerts, meetings, lectures and classes’. So far I consider concerts to be our most effective category with lesser but significant events in relation to exhibitions, meetings [including the ‘coffee and chat’ events of the last two years] and lectures [the stained glass talk by Paul Sharpling comes to mind]. Classes remain as a yet to be explored activity. The social dimension of The Friends remains important. Other varied fundraising activities that individual Friends have developed include specially designed stained glass bookmarks, Easter and Christmas cards, postcards, quizzes and naming competitions.

Publications for information have included the annual Newsletter, the one-off summary of all the church's stained glass and, in more recent years, Chairman John's ‘Window’ newsbriefs.

Funds Raised

After a slow start, over £25.000 has been raised with almost £16,000 spent on three projects [The East Window refurbishment, the South Buttresses repair and the Tower survey]. The balance is almost entirely invested with the Market Harborough Building Society awaiting the next request[s] from the Church Council. As a quinquennial architect's inspection of the church is due in Spring 2009, it is almost certain that requests for help will come sooner rather than later.

Future Prospects

The church architect's report on his quinquennial inspection in March 2009 identified the need for re-sheeting the chancel roof and restoring the upper parts of the belfry mullions. Requests from the Church Council for financial help are expected soon.

M Roy Bordoli [Honorary Architectural Adviser to The Friends of St. Dionysius]