The recent sad death of the 11th Duke of Grafton, our Founder Patron, has brought to my mind the early days of the Suffolk Historic Churches Trust and the progress made since then.
The Historic Churches Preservation Trust (since renamed National Churches Trust) had been founded in 1952 and, during the next twenty years, fifteen County Trusts had also been formed; Suffolk, despite its wealth of splendid churches, was not one of them. In the meantime, the Duke had become the Chairman of HCPT and he chose “The Plight of Suffolk’s incomparable heritage of churches and the urgent need to do something about it” as the subject of his Presidential address to the Suffolk Preservation Society at its Annual General Meeting in 1971. Fortunately, the Duke’s challenge was taken up and, on the 21st December 1973, Suffolk Historic Churches Trust was founded with the Duke as the Chairman of Trustees.
In its first year the Trust raised approximately £10,000 and awarded twelve grants totalling £3,450. In the year ended 5th April 2011 the Trust raised more than £200,000 and awarded forty-one grants totalling £161,300; in addition, £80,000 was distributed to those churches which had participated in the Bike Ride.
Remarkable progress and one for which we should all be proud.
However, rather like the weather we have been experiencing since the halcyon days of April and May this year, the clouds are now gathering. We have been extremely fortunate for many years with the level of support received from the Local Authorities and, more recently, from the Landfill Operators in Suffolk but, as you will see in the accompanying Accounts, we no longer receive any contribution from these sources and we are now almost totally reliant on our annual Bike Ride and legacies.
Although I am extremely grateful for the immense work done by so many people, which makes the Bike Ride such a success, and for those Friends who remember the Trust in their wills, I feel that the Appeal made in our first newsletter of March 1975 is still relevant today – “We realise these are probably very difficult times for you but there must be many who read this who really value our wonderful heritage of Churches in Suffolk and who could, even in these days, afford an annual donation. Every little helps.” If you are not a Friend of the Trust, please complete the enclosed application form and, if you are already a Friend, please use the form to encourage one of your friends to become a Friend!
During the last year we have welcomed the Venerable David Jenkins and Geoffrey Probert as Trustees; Robert Rous has taken over from Christopher Spicer as Education Officer; and we have appointed David Gould as Bike Ride Treasurer. Sadly two of the Trust’s stalwarts have retired from “active service” and I should like to thank Hester Agate and Alan Barker for the outstanding contributions they have made over so many years. Hester was a Trustee for more than thirty years, during which time she served as Secretary for twenty years; she represented the Trust on both the Diocesan Advisory Committee for the Care of Churches and the HCPT; and she was the Chattisham Local Organiser for the Bike Ride from its inception in 1981 until last year. Alan was a Trustee for almost thirty years, during which time he served as Chairman of the Investment Committee for fifteen years. Happily they are both now Vice-Presidents of the Trust.
Finally, I should like to thank all those who make the Trust such a success, not least Julie Lonergan, the Trust Administrator, her assistant, Helen Read, and Clive Paine for yet another successful “Let Loose” series in the summer.
Martin Favell, Chairman of the Trustees