Of all the buildings in Culworth the Church is by far the oldest. Standing in the middle of the village for nearly 1000 years we all have a duty as villagers to maintain and preserve it for future generations, in the same way people from Culworth have always done. Most of us do not regularly attend services but none of us would wish to see the Church uncared for.
Parish churches would have originally been built, owned and operated by the local lords. In the 19th century St Mary's Church was enlarged and restored with the help of William Wilson, colliery owner and father in law of Charles Hill. So, in the past rich benefactors would have paid not only for the cost of a rector but also the cost of maintaining and improving the Church. These days smaller congregations have to find the money for both as there is no other source of income. The Church is not owned by any other organisation but the village itself. The Parochial Church Council has a duty of care to make sure it is well maintained.
The theft of lead from the roof two years ago was a considerable drain on the Church's funds. Many people were extremely generaous and our fundraising activities were well supported. This did, however, exhaust our fabric fund.
We also have to pay what is known as our Parish Share. This is the amount we pay towards the cost of our Rector. Last year this was £7,770 but we have been told that the amount this year will be over £9000.
The majority of parish churches still have pipe organs, most dating from the latter half of the 19th century. These instruments were robustly constructed made from raw materials such as English oak, straight grained deal, leather, tim and lead which were readily available at low prices pre WWI. Many of these stalwart instruments are in need of renovation to their keyboards, action and bellows but seldom to the pipes themselves. The tone of most of these organs is still beautiful and Culworth's organ is no different.
In 1858 villagers held a "bazaar" to raise money for the building of an organ. The organ was rebuilt and enlarged in 1903 and was listed in the National Pipe Organ Register and has been regularly tuned and maintained. It last underwent major repair in 1971 by a Mr Spincke of Leeds. Canon Brown wrote:
"the organ was reassembled, thoroughly tuned, all defective parts made good, new pedal board. Small parts of worm infected wood were treated. Total cost £407.75"
During the last tuning it was found that the bellows needed to be renewed. They are thought to be original, that is over 150 years old. We initially thought the organ would require dismantling to remove the bellows and it would be logical to restore the remainder of the organ. The cost of this was huge and would not be covered these days by villagers holding a "bazaar". We had one estimate of over £30,000. Since then another restorer has told us he thinks the repairs to the bellows could be done in situ, thus reducing the cost.
The organ has been in our Church for over 150 years and as villagers we have a duty to preserve not only the fabric of the Church but also the organ for future generations.
Running costs for the Church at the moment are approximately ~£14,000 per annum. We rely not only on the collections but also on the generosity of those of you who give a monthly gift-aided amount. If you'd like to help preserve our parish Church a monthly gift aid donation then please contact Simon Langdale on 01295 7600222 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
This summer it was decided to redecorate the church vestry. It had not been decorated within living memory and was decidedly shabby. We took advice from Tim Scott who advised us on some special paint, cleared the room and also took down several wall plaques and a very ancient clock which is not in working order. One of the wall plaques is made of cast iron and represents The Last Supper.
I had thought that maybe we had a rare treasure on our hands which could be sold for thousands. So before I rushed off to the next Antiques Road Show I did some research …..
The Coalbrookdale Company first began manufacturing Last Supper cast iron plaques in the 1840s, and many hundreds if not thousands would have been produced throughout the 19th century and, in lesser numbers, into the 20th century. A Coalbrookdale Company price list collection reveals that they were being sold for £0.18s.0d. in1860, though by the 1870s this price had gone up slightly to £1.0s.0d. each. . With the real quality ones you can actually see the apostles’ toe nails, and that is an incredible amount of detail.
How did Coalbrookdale, which is associated with iron bridges and railways and steam engines, come to be making plaques of Da Vinci's Last Supper?
Coalbrookdale had peaked by the 1820’s. It had done a great many firsts in iron making. The foundry found itself in the doldrums. Francis Darby, a descendant of Abraham Darby who started the iron foundry in 1709, had a great interest in art, collected a huge archive of design ideas, and visited the iron foundries in Czechoslovakia and Bohemia. They were experimenting with using cast iron for decorative purposes, and one of the things they produced was a plaque of the last supper. He came back to Coalbrookdale and started decorative casting, including the huge gates of London’s Hyde Park, art castings, fireplaces and fire grates and our Last Supper Plaque. Cast iron almost became the plastic of the Victorian age.
As to the value? About £30 on ebay!
Once again thank you to everyone who helped with the second working party of the year in July, and especially to Brian who strimmed the whole area by himself. The rewards of this hard work are obvious especially in the Spring months.
In the Parish Council minutes you may have seen information regarding Berry Hill Close. The following information about Berry Hill is taken from ‘An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Northamptonshire, Volume 4 Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1982. ‘
The Castle Ringwork at Berry Hill, Culworth, is one of seven surviving ringworks in Northamptonshire and has documentary evidence
for its origins. The site also forms part of an unusual cluster of ringworks, as Culworth, Weedon Lois, Canons Ashby and Sulgrave, all lie within 5kms of each other. The earthworks survive well and
the monument will contain evidence concerning the development of the site and its relationship with the other ringworks nearby.
The castle ringwork at Culworth is situated at Berry Hill. It is located at the south eastern end of the village and lies immediately to the north of St Mary's church, which has Norman origins. The ringwork has a roughly circular bank about 3m high which encloses a central area about 25m across. The interior of the ringwork is slightly raised above the surrounding ground level and has some irregularities suggesting the presence of buried structures. On the western side, the ringwork bank is lower which may indicate the entrance to the interior. The ringwork is encompassed by a ditch 2m deep and up to 6m wide. The ditch has been altered in the south east corner by work on the Old Rectory garden in the last century and the churchyard has cut into the western ditch. On the northern side of the ringwork there are traces of a slight outer bank. It is recorded in Domesday that this area was held by Landric of Ghilo. It is known too that he held part of Sulgrave, and that Sulgrave was associated with Weedon Lois. Ringworks are preserved at all three sites.
The field in which the ringwork stands was known as Bury Close in 1839.
In 1991 an evaluation dig revealed traces of an early Iron Age site dating from 700 to 400BC. The major dig later on that year, necessitated by the extension of the grave yard, unfortunately revealed little information. It cost £19,000, funded by the County Council. (Thanks to Anne Whitely for a newspaper cutting from 1991.)