Marsh Regional Volunteer Awards with the Churches Conservation Trust

The Awards recognise groups and individuals, from regions around the UK, who work with the Churches Conservation Trust to conserve, protect and promote the use of church space.

Awards are given to volunteers in each of the three regions where the Churches Conservation Trust operates – North, South East and West – and go to a volunteer whose voluntary contribution deserves special recognition.

Nominations for the Award are submitted to the Churches Conservation Trust via their website and are judged in partnership with representatives of the MCT.

Pictured: Eric and Linda Munson , winners of the 2010 Award

Janet Hall & John Gill, Natalie Gibson and Pamela Law 2021

 North 

Janet Hall and John Gill from St John the Baptist in Stanwick.  – They have been supporting the church for longer than it has been in the care of the CCT and are keen to share their extensive knowledge with as many people as possible. Despite difficulties presented to them by the coronavirus outbreak, they have continued their work including transforming the Harvest Festival service into a socially distanced exhibition that the whole community could enjoy and contribute to. They also played a key role in helping to deep clean and prepare the church for a Covid-secure wedding at short notice. 

 South East 

Natalie Gibson from St Mary the Virgin in Wiggenhall.

She has been keeping a close eye on this church which has in the past been a target of heritage crime, opening and closing it at a moment’s notice when required and using her initiative to keep the site safe. Despite being a key worker in her role as a local GP, Natalie has continued her commitment throughout 2020, still finding time to check on the church and provide the CCT with regular updates. 

Bob Cairns from All Saints in Wordwell.

Bob has been a consistent volunteer for over 20 years and is the only key-holder and volunteer at this church. Despite the lockdown and being told to shield, his support didn’t waiver throughout 2020 and continued to open the church were possible. Bob has also helped with the fundraising effort at the church, organising the use of a neighbouring field so that a theatre group could put on a performance to raise money. 

West 

Pamela Law from St Michael and All Angels in Princetown.

Despite no longer living in the area, she has been a great support throughout 2020, helping with the closure of the church during the first lockdown and later with its reopening once restrictions were lifted. Her support enabled the Local Community Officer to focus on other churches which needed help and didn’t have a volunteer like Pam. In more normal times, she undertakes a variety of roles to keep the church maintained and raise funds when needed. 

Previous Winners

William Dove, Bob Wyard and Rosemary Harvey

North: William Dove – Holy Trinity, Sunderland

Bill has been caring for the church for 31 years and no job is too big or too small for him. he plants flowers in the spring and summer, empties the water tanks twice a week, cleans up, gives talks and tours, buys refreshments, replaces broken windows and produces flower arrangements to commemorate occasions. He is quite simply amazing! He watches over the church from his flat and comes out in all weathers, at all times of the day and night to ensure that the roof isn’t leaking or if he sees anything suspicious – not a small feat for a gentleman of advanced years. Bill loves Holy Trinity like it’s his own home, and cares for it like family!

South East: Bob Wyard – Oxhey Chapel, Oxhey

Bob has cared for Oxhey Chapel for nearly 20 years and his passion for and commitment to the building are plain to see. He is a fount of knowledge about the history of the chapel and is generous in sharing this knowledge with others, with an engaging and enthusiastic manner that brings stories from the past to life. From acting as the local keyholder and facilitating visits for individual visitors, to organising open days for the community, he is keen to make the Chapel accessible for all. This year, he has organised an upgrade to the forecourt, replanting the beds and providing gravel at his own expense to improve the appearance of the Chapel’s frontage.

West: Rosemary Harvey – St Mary’s, Shipton Sollars

Rosemary catalyses positive change at the churches she finds. Just in the last year, at two sites which have been without support for years, her intervention has led to new relationships with two vicars, two communities of neighbours and two groups interested in using the sites for events. Rosemary also finds a way to make her team feel looked after, either by supporting staff initiatives or by helping local residents accomplish the best they can at a church – even if that’s a question of planting Christmas trees in the churchyard for reuse each year!

Fel Birk, Helen Saddleton and Mary Szuster

North: Fel Birk – Christ the Consoler, Skelton Cum-Newby

Fel has regularly given his time to Christ the Consoler for the last 15 years, opening and closing the church daily since he lives nearby to the estate. After vandalism in the church which led to the removal of the wall safe, Fel used his initiative to place a temporary donations box in the church which he emptied and himself each day. His dedication to the care of Christ the Consoler is truly admirable.

South East: Helen Saddleton – Area Volunteer for Essex

Helen joined the CCT two years ago as the first Area Volunteer in Essex for a number of years. She has since made a huge contribution to the understanding of maintenance issues at the five churches she supports. She visits the churches four times a year, making detailed reports that allow small problems to be identified and solved before they turn into larger issues. Helen has forged excellent relationships with local volunteers and provides an important additional tier of support for them.

West: Mary Szuster – St Cuthbert’s, Holme Lacy

Mary has lived in the big house next to St Cuthbert’s for her whole life and actively cared for it throughout. This year she is moving away, but has offered to continue acting as key holder and care taker for the church and churchyard, as she has done for decades. In fact, it is highly unlikely that anyone visiting the church has not seen her on her lawnmower in the churchyard or cleaning the inside of the church. This year, Mary organised a display of home-made poppies for the centennial service marking the end of the Great War. St Cuthbert’s without her is impossible to imagine.

Will Scott, Lynda Dale and Ruth Bertenshaw

West: Will Scott – St Swithun’s, Worcester

Over the last ten years and under Will’s leadership the Friends group has flourished and succeeded in opening-up this almost forgotten city centre church. They have welcomed visitors, restored the superb organ, organised the St Swithun’s festival as part of the city’s cultural offering and played a vital part in working with the CCT to secure £2.4m in funding to conserve and adapt the church with a secure future in prospect. Will has led throughout drawing on his conservation expertise, good humour and determination to save the church for future generations to enjoy.

South East: Lynda Dale – St. Mary’s, Stansted Mountfitchet

Lynda is dedicated to making the church a success, opening it throughout the year and making it a welcoming and warm place for visitors.  She seeks out and organises events and endeavours to engage the local community with their church. Lynda carries out outreach work with local schools which has resulted in a ten-fold increase in visitor numbers to the church and its use as the venue for the school’s Harvest Festival and Carol Concert. She also organises treasure hunts for children and craft activities for children during the school holidays.

North: Ruth Bertenshaw – St Mary’s, Shrewsbury

Ruth is the church’s first CCT Learning Ambassador and is passionate that children should feel welcomed, inspired, and proud of their churches. She is full of ideas to engage children and gives her time generously. This year she has used her talent for illustration to create a beautiful (and very popular!) trail around St. Mary’s called the Jesse Trail, allowing the character of Jesse the Mouse to show children around the church. She is a wonderful volunteer who is very valued by the Heritage Learning Officer in the North and all at St Mary’s.

Astrid Gillespie & Mickey Etches, Beverley Turner and Beryl Venables

South East
Astrid Gillespie and Mickey Etches have organised the transformation of the All Saints Church in East Horndon. They have brought together volunteers to care for the church, run regular open days, and share with visitors their passion for their local church. 

West
Beverley Turner has transformed the Oxfordshire Volunteer Group with her imaginative and innovative use of media, which has enabled her to assemble a diverse group of supporters and volunteers from local communities and help to keep the churches open.

North
Beryl Venables has been a CCT volunteer for many years and was instrumental in setting up the Friends Group at the Milton Mausoleum. She is also the CCT’s prime representative in Nottinghamshire, inspecting the nine CCT churches twice a year.

Richard Haynes, Neil Skelton and James Hickingbotham

South East
Richard Haynes visits a number of CCT protected churches throughout the year, to meet with volunteers and carry out inspections on the buildings. He has a great deal of knowledge and expertise which he shares freely with others.

West 
Neil Skelton is at the forefront of the Friends of St Giles at Imber. He welcomes visitors into the building and promotes the church as a visitor destination, which has encouraged thousands of people to visit the church each year. Neil has developed extensive knowledge about the conservation of the building and has helped engage local groups to support the church.

North
James Hickingbotham voluntarily manages six churches in the East Midlands, liaising with local people and key holders, providing tours to the public, representing the CCT at local events and attending CCT Regional Team Meetings, where he represents other East Midlands volunteers.

Roger Green, Pat Prosser and Andres Nicholson

South East
Roger Green is the Chairman of the St. Peter’s Friends’ Group in Sudbury driving a wide range of activities in the church, including regular markets, festivals, concerts and theatre productions. The church attracts 57,000 visitors annually due to Roger’s efforts in promoting the use of the wonderful facility.

West
For the last 25 years Pat Prosser has ensured that the rural church of Lower Sapey in Worcestershire, which had been abandoned and due to be demolished, has become a conserved, well known and much loved and used place by the community.

North
Andrew Nicholson has committed almost 400 hours to volunteering for the Churches Conservation Trust at Holy Trinity Goodramgate in York, greeting 17,000 visitors and raising over £11,000 for the Church.

Martin Evans, Rowena Tulloch, The Friends of Old Christ Church Waterloo and Janet Townsend Stojic

South East
Martin and the Friends of St Mary’s Bungay, in Suffolk, have created a new multi-purpose room with facilities to help improve the appeal of the church for events and activities

West
Rowena has worked on several major projects with the CCT’s West of England team, including writing a full interpretation plan and paper for Inglesham Church and running conservation open days for the public.

North
The Friends of the Old Christ Church have, over the last seven years, succeeded to bring a redundant church back into almost full community use, attracting over 30,000 visitors every year.

In 2013 an overall National Impact Award Award was presented to a volunteer who had made a particularly valuable contribution to the CCT in helping to ensure its future success and vitality.

Janet Townsend Stojic has given a great amount of her time to volunteering with the CCT. She has worked to develop business processes in Volunteer Management, Events Management and Project Planning and has also helped with the strategic developments of the organisation.

John Marks, Raymond an Elizabeth Fowler and Penny Taylor

South East
John has opened and shut St James’s Church in the village of Cooling for every day for the past 35 years. He is a prime example of everything that is admirable about the volunteers of the Churches Conservation Trust. Alongside his devotion to the church and the various duties he performs to sustain it, he has shown a great sense of community as he still acts as the village paper boy and empties the village litter bins in order to ensure that Cooling is a better place to live in.

South West
For nearly 10 years, Raymond, and his wife Elizabeth have made a great contribution to the success of St Swithun’s Church, promoting it as a central establishment in the heart of Worcester. They have shown enthusiasm and love for the architecture and history of the building and its importance to the community, making them excellent guides for visitors. Raymond has taken control of all aspects of the running of the Church including the organisation of fundraising events, training volunteers to take part in an array of activities, and attending to any other needs of the Church. Raymond and Elizabeth’s passion and commitment have been an inspiration to all those who have witnessed their work.

North
Penny has volunteered with St Leonard’s Church in Shropshire as a steward for 12 years, been treasurer for 6 years, and has organised a very successful annual fundraising Victorian Fayre for 10 years. She also organises volunteers. Penny has undertaken banking duties for the Churches Conservation Trust and has shown great support and commitment to the organisation.

Colin & Val Sparks and Brian Keefe

Colin and Val Sparkes
Colin and Val have supported the Churches Conservation Trust for many years and have visited all of our churches.  They provide invaluable help for a member of the regional team, taking round Trust literature to 27 churches in the south east, collecting visitor numbers and reporting issues, taking no expenses.  They are unfailingly reliable which has made a great difference to regional staff, knowing that the churches will be well presented and are regularly visited. They inspire others by actively contributing to debates encouraging other volunteers to action, and demonstrate that volunteers can help the Trust in different ways.

Brian Keefe

Brian was a founder member of the Friends of St Oswald’s Church in 2007. He was intimately involved with the process of forming the group, formulating the constitution and developing a range of events which would appeal to the community and place the group on a firm footing as it developed.  He has acted as vice chairman since the group was formed.  Brian has inspired other members of the committee to take an active role in developing activities at the church.  Each year he is the inspiration behind the local history photographic exhibition held at St Oswald’s during Heritage Open Days, encouraging the local community to become actively involved in the event.

Eric and Linda Munson

Eric and Linda Munson took on St Peter’s Church ten years ago, when it was in a very poor state.  The difference that they have made since then is striking, not only to the church but also to the community.

The churchyard is now in fantastic condition with well kept graves, shrubs and flowers and the inside of the church gleams as they have spent hours on their knees polishing the floors and caring for the interior.  They have both spent every spare moment at the church on weekends and in the evenings after work.

Eric and Linda open the church every day, including Christmas Day and Boxing Day, when they provide refreshments for anyone who visits.  Visitor numbers and donations have increased dramatically over the years. They give talks on the church and have recruited other volunteer helpers.  As a result visitor numbers and donations have increased dramatically over the years.