St Mary’s needs friends as it faces £1m bill for failing roof


Church Warden Mary Parker checks some of the buckets collecting water from the leaking roof.

Its hoped to create a “Friends of St Mary’s” group to help secure the future of the building

St Mary’s Church in Banbury is calling on its friends to help secure the future of the iconic Grade 1 listed building as it faces costs of around £1million to fix the roof.

Every time it rains water is getting into the building and causing damage.   Parts of the ceiling have been brought down and buckets are strategically placed around the eighteenth century building to catch the water.

The setting-up of a new “Friends of St Mary’s” group will be explored at a special meeting on Monday evening.   Its hoped anyone who is interested in making sure the building survives for future generations will attend – and the invitation is open to people irrespective of whether they attend church or what faith they have.

The work to repair St Mary’s roof will be a large project with the gullies which carry away rain water no longer fit for purpose.  Much of the roof and the guttering needs replacing.

Mary Parker is a Church Warden at St Mary’s.   In 2020 it was Mary who discovered the clergy vestry ceiling had been brought down when rain got in.   This water extensively damaged the organ and the repair took months to complete.

Mary now dreads it raining.   She said: “I almost put my hands over my ears and close my eyes saying ‘oh no not again’.”

Visitors to St Mary’s will see other areas where more recent leaks have caused damage in the main parts of the church.

Water damage in the main church is evident on two levels.

The building, which costs between £400-£500 a day to run, is widely used by the community in addition to the regular religious services, christenings, weddings and funerals.

Mary recalled how St Mary’s became the focal point for many after the passing of the Queen Elizabth II.   She said: “The morning after she passed away we opened the church at 8am as we though people would want to come in and they were all day – it was a constant flow.

“There were people I’d never seen in the church before.   They just wanted a moment, to sit in the pews.   Some were is tears.

“There were many people who wouldn’t normally come to the church to worship there, but its this beacon in the town that people come to in times of distress.”

The idea of creating a “Friends” group is not new with many other churches and cathedrals already operating similar schemes.    The Friends of St Mary’s will be formed from people who are supportive of the building being there and who want it to remain for future generations as an important part of the town.   The group would support fund raising events and bring in the necessary money to fund building and repair projects.

Rev Sarah Bourne is the Chaplain for the Arts at St Mary’s and a member of the ministry team.   She said: “Being a Friend of St Mary’s Banbury would be saying something about how you feel to have that marvellous building there and recognising its part of Banbury’s history and heritage.

“Its not saying anything about your Christian belief – or not.   We would welcome as many people to become ‘Friends’ as would like to.”

Monday’s meeting will be held at 6.30pm at Banbury Town Hall, chaired by Sir Tony Baldry.   Those attending will hear the experiences of the Friends of St Mary’s in Bloxham who have been working on another large scale project in their church for the past few years.

Sarah is encouraging anyone to attend if they have an interest in ensuring St Mary’s is protected for future generations.   She said: “Its an opportunity for people to express their support for what is a really special building in Banbury.

“This really will be a community project.   My hope and prayer is that we will find the resources to achieve the necessary work for St Mary’s and we can’t do it without our community.   It is a community building and a community project and we need everybody to come on board with us.”

Published: by Banbury FM Newsteam

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