Broadcaster and journalist Huw Edwards, Vice President of The National Churches Trust, said: “The UK’s historic churches and chapels are a vital part of our national heritage and have done so much to help local people during the COVID-19 lockdown. But to survive, many need to carry out urgent repairs and install modern facilities. The cost of this work is far beyond what most congregations can pay for themselves.
“So. I’m delighted that St Mary’s church is being helped with a £5,000 National Churches Trust Cornerstone Grant. The work to install toilets will help the church to better serve its community and make it easier for both the young and old to make use of the church.”
A total of 59 grants have been awarded to benefit churches and chapels in England, Wales and Northern Ireland by the National Churches Trust, the charity that supports the UK’s church buildings.
These are the second-round of grants made by the National Churches Trust in 2020. To date this year, the Trust has distributed 145 grants totalling over £1 million to churches and chapels around the UK.
The oldest visible parts of St Mary’s are in the chancel, which was built shortly before the Black Death in 1348. It is likely that there was a church on the site long before that as the village is named in the Domesday Book and cited in documents written in 1038 by Aelfric, Bishop of Elmham.
The church tower was built in four stages and was completed around 1415. Later in the century the title of the church was passed to Joan, Dowager Queen of England and later, by Henry VI, to Eton College.
The 15th-century font is the church’s greatest architectural treasure. Its carvings were mutilated at the Reformation, possibly on the orders of the regents of the boy king Edward VI. Around the stem are eight female saints including St Catherine, St Margaret, St Elizabeth, St Mary and St Apollonias. The latter is the patron saints of dentists and can be identified by the rather large pair of forceps that she holds in her hand. Around the bottom of the bowl are the emblems of the gospel writers St Mark, St Luke, St Matthew and St John, the bull, lion, winged man and eagle. Henry Walpole was baptised in St Mary’s in 1558.
The grant will help fund the installation of toilet facilities in the church. The Architect has drawn up plans to put an accessible toilet and a unisex toilet in the North West of the church. He plans to match the wooden panels outside the toilet enclosure with the new oak archway round the South door. Having two toilets will enable the church better to host events.
Rector Peter Cook said of the grant that he was delighted with the support that the National Churches Trust had offered: “The addition of toilets to our church will help us to expand the work that we do here with both the younger and older members of our community. Thanks to generous grants like the one from the National Churches Trust we are able to move ahead with plans that will benefit both our church and the wider community here in Docking.”
Photo (C) St Mary’s, Docking