Response to the launch of a new charity in Preston Candover to raise money for the repair and maintenance of St Mary’s Church and churchyard has been disappointing so far. Contrary to common belief, neither the Church Commissioners nor the Winchester Diocese is responsible for maintaining church buildings in Hampshire. That responsibility falls to the parishioners, working through the Parochial Church Council, who need to raise sufficient money to ensure that the church building is kept in a proper state of repair and the church yard is looked after properly.
The churchyard has suffered much damage in recent years with the loss of two important beech trees. The largest tree, in the middle of the churchyard, collapsed in a storm earlier this year as a consequence, it is believed, of its roots being under water for many months on two occasions in the last decade or so. , This came only a year after the extensive damage to one of the other most important beech trees in the February storm of 2014. The rest of this tree had to be felled, and the cost of this work has been considerable.
Regrettably, funds for this work in Preston Candover have been in short supply in recent years. It is with the hope of changing that situation that the new charity, the Friends of St Mary’s, has been organised and has secured HMRC approval so that any donations can be offset against personal taxes.
This new ‘Fabric Fund’ will be seeking to raise money for the exclusive purpose of looking after the church and churchyard. None of the funds raised will be spent on diocesan affairs, and to ensure the independence of this charity the board of trustees is entirely separate from the Parochial Church Council, although the PCC is represented on it.
St Mary’s Church and the churchyard are an important element of the village. Without a church it would be hard to describe Preston Candover as a proper “village” and the state of the church and churchyard reflects well, or badly, on all who live there. Even those who are normally non-churchgoers still expect the church to be there for their weddings, the christenings of their children, and eventually burials.
The church building is relatively young – not much more than 100 years old – and is in a reasonable state of repair, although it requires constant maintenance; but the churchyard needs some urgent attention following the flooding and the damage earlier in recent years to the two large beech trees, which had to be felled.
It is to be hoped that there will be many people in the Preston Candover, Axford and Nutley parish who will care enough about it to ensure the survival of the church in the village and will donate to the new fund.
Donations can be made directly to ‘The Friends of St Mary’s, Preston Candover, at any bank, or online, by quoting the account details – sort code 30-90-53 and the account number 37379360, or by sending a cheque to The Friends of St Mary’s, c/o Park House, Preston Candover, RG25 2ET. The HMRC reference number for tax purposes is EW06550 and the Friends can claim Gift Aid in respect of donations made by UK taxpayers.