Friday, 24 July 2015

Friends Of The Friendless

Growing up in a village called Caldecote I was always dimly aware that there were other villages in the area which had the same name. Recently I had a special reason to visit one of them. And you'd have to have a good reason to go to such a tiny place, comprised of just seven houses and a disused church.



Poor old church! Tucked away behind a farm and not used for many a year. What could be going on in such a place?



Remote and forgotten it may be but it's not as out of touch with the present century as the photo suggests. These are members of Chiltern West Gallery Quire who are there to raise money for The Friends Of Friendless Churches a small charity that cares for and preserves old and redundant churches like this one.



In pre-Victorian times many of our churches had a gallery at the western end which would house not only a choir but also a band of village musicians. Often they would sing to locally composed tunes and I was delighted that this quire includes in its repertoire several hymns from "the Meldreth book". This notebook was once the property of the village blacksmith in the village of Meldreth, where I live. 


This blacksmith had some sort of rudimentary musical education and was therefore appointed the leader of the band. His book contained the versions of the hymns which were sung a century or two ago in my parish church. The book was found in a car-boot sale by one of the members of the Chiltern West Gallery Quire.


I was hoping to record a video of the band but the sound of the wind in the trees (and in the microphone, despite the windshield) made the recording just about unlistenable. So here's a link to The Marsh Warblers performing a West Gallery hymn, sensibly recorded indoors to give you some idea of the style and sound.

Meanwhile inside the church....


....the pews were pressed into service to display an exhibition of quilting by the Icknield Quilters.






Take care.



15 comments:

  1. What an absolutely wonderful idea John and lovely photographs to prove it.

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  2. How nice that the church is being put to such good use - praising life in many ways.

    I love that purple 'when I am old' quilt - I feel I qualify now!

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  3. What a joyful sound - I love it. The whole post has cheered me up!

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  4. Now that would be really interesting!

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  5. So wonderful that this group is saving these lovely old churches.

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  6. What a lovely gesture, and nice photos. Greetings!

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  7. I think those old congregations had it right by encouraging their parishioners to write songs. While there are lots of wonderful hymns and contemporary songs to use in services, music written by a member of the congregation can be so much more inspirational because you know something of the life of the person who wrote it and you get more layers of meaning with that insight.
    I'm glad some people are working to preserve the old churches. What a colourful range of designs in the quilts.

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  8. What a super event for such a good cause. I love the idea of singing and playing the hymns and songs in the way village choirs would have done many years ago. How amazing that the blacksmith's book of songs was found at a car boot sale and by someone who knew its worth too:)

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  9. Wonderful story about the blacksmiths book of songs. Super photos.

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  10. I love that little church...and the rest is wonderful. I would love to see more of the quilts since I am a quilter.

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  11. Three fascinating things, the old church, the choir and the quilt exhibition. You found something very interesting. Thanks for sharing it with us.

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  12. This village seems quite alive and well in spite of its small size. I love the photos.

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  13. Quilting, wow they are beautiful the things you are showing.

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