FEATURE: Let’s celebrate our fabulous old churches

Parish church, Gosberton Clough'Friends of the church appeal'Names: Warden Mary Burton
Parish church, Gosberton Clough'Friends of the church appeal'Names: Warden Mary Burton
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PEOPLE can’t possibly look much harder at their local churches than when they are painting them, which is exactly what the Lincolnshire Churches Trust hoped to achieve with this year’s art competition.

“I wanted to encourage people to look harder at our churches and value them,” said Jane Ford, organiser of the competition that culminated in exhibitions in Lincoln and then at St Peter and St Paul Church at Gosberton. “Whether people are church-goers or not they are an important part of the landscape, and especially of village life, and I hoped people would look at their own and celebrate what fabulous things they are... and perhaps put a little in the collection.”

This last remark springs from the fact that in many small communities church services are down to one a month, so the income to help maintain the building may be correspondingly lower.

As Jane says: “It is often a few dedicated souls who work hard but they can’t raise money sufficient to keep wind and weather out of a Grade I listed building.”

The Lincolnshire Churches Trust was founded in 1952 to preserve and protect our churches – we have a huge number of them in the county: over 640 churches of all Christian denominations and the Trust covers any church or chapel that is over 100 years old.

Jane says our churches are particularly fine because of the wealth enjoyed in medieval times as a result of the wool trade, and again in Victorian times when there was a surge in church building thanks to philanthropic land owners who provided churches for their farm workers.

“That is why the Trust is needed,” explains Jane, “because there are often magnificent and huge churches in villages which now have a greatly reduced population.”

The Trust gives grants to help in the work of maintaining churches, the funds coming from subscriptions, special events and its biggest fundraiser, the Open Gardens held each summer. The art competition was introduced 18 months ago and when it came to organising the second one Jane wanted to make it a summer event and, because so many artists in the competition are from the south of the county, find an exhibition venue in this area. Tony Quinton and John Walker-Smith from Community Arts Projects helped organise the venue at Gosberton Church.

Of the top four places, Phil Biggs, of Holbeach, came fourth with his painting of Swarby Church and Graham Timbrell, of Kirton, was highly commended for his picture of St Botolph in Boston. It was Graham, an art tutor in the area, who encouraged a lot of local artists to compete in this year’s competition.

They are Angela Dunham, Dennis Ottaway, Wendy Nix, all of Spalding; Ruth Scriviner of Surfleet; Hugh Marrows of Donington; Eric Austin of Whaplode St Catherine; Sybil Rix of Holbeach; Liz White of Frampton; Christine King of Swineshead; Debbie Mitchell of Frieston; Aline Caspari, Shirley Walton and Joan Walton, all of Crowland.

The next art exhibition will be in two years’ time – to give artists time to get out and paint churches. Visit the Trust’s website at www.lincolnshirechurchestrust.org.uk for more details.

The Trust needs more volunteers for all kinds of tasks – for instance, it is currently looking for a webmaster as a result of the illness of the previous one. If you would like to help, contact Jane at jane.ford@waitrose.com