A BERKSHIRE church that appears in the Doomsday Book is bringing the community together as it prepares to write a new chapter.
St Mary The Virgin in Aldermaston dates back to Norman times and the building boasts many historically important features including wall paintings, stained glass windows and even a knight’s helmet.
However, it has no modern facilities or space to meet the demands of a growing church. It also suffers from damp and heating issues.
Members of the church’s PCC have produced plans that are uniting the West Berkshire village, seeing people come together to raise vital cash to fund a refurbishment and additional building.
The first phase of the project will carry out a sensitive restoration of the Grade I listed church, protecting the medieval interior for generations to come.
The second part of the plan is to erect a meeting room in the grounds behind the church, providing toilets, a kitchen area and space for a Sunday School. Work will enhance disabled access.
The church’s rector, the Revd Becky Bevan, explained: “If a church is to flourish in a small population, it has to include the whole community. It’s not just for churchgoers, it’s for all parishioners, and for many generations to come.
“A parish church is the base of the community. People see it as their church.”
Initial plans have been “delicately and carefully” drawn up with the needs of the village in mind, Becky added.
“We want to be guardians of that history,” she said, “It’s not something you embark upon lightly.”
She added that the plans for the meeting rooms are important. “If it [the church] becomes a museum, it’ll die.”
Ian Cave, who is chairing the project committee, said that the village’s response has been great.
“They’ve been most enthusiastic,” he said. “People see the need to protect the church’s future.
“The [meeting rooms] will be at the back of the church at the same level, and will be connected to the church by a covered courtyard. We are also planning a pathway around the side of the church for ease of access.”
St Mary’s is also home to the Aldermaston Nativity Play, which has been performed for 58 years and counting. The building plans means that the portaloo that the church had to hire for the visitors will be a thing of the past.
A series of fundraising events is being planned, and the Project has set up a grant application on the local www.findmeagrant.org/wberks website to raise funds for the initial planning and expert advice. To find the appeal and donate, search for Aldermaston.
For more news from the project, log on to its website.
St Mary’s Church website: www.awb.org.uk.