ST. MARY’S, AMPORT
St. Mary’s Church in Amport, four miles west of Andover, was built between 1320 and 1330.
The building replaced an earlier church that was itself of some antiquity. In common with most villages in north-west Hampshire, Amport had almost certainly enjoyed the benefit of its own place of worship since the late 10th century, though we cannot now establish whether one building or successive buildings would have served the village over a span of more than three hundred years.
Today, two architectural styles combine to give St. Mary’s its character:
In all of these features the traditional construction of knapped flint is much in evidence.
This brochure is as much concerned with the mission of Amport church as it is with its architecture. Since the historic church stands at the centre of our worshipping community, however, missionary and architectural issues are inevitably linked. Much of our Christian witness must and should find its expression within the context of the Grade II* Listed Building which has served the people of Amport since the 14th century.
Amport is a parish of 850 people, with a well-balanced spread of ages:
This is a snapshot of a modern and coherent community. We are neither a retirement haven nor a dormitory village.
Worship and governance
St. Mary’s is a worshipping community in good heart. Church attendances at mid-morning services average 30, rising to 70 and more at major points in the Church year: these are figures which compare well with other parishes in southern England.
There are 52 church members on the electoral roll (7% of our adult population), 13 of whom serve on the Parochial Church Council (PCC). Active PCC sub-committees, reflecting the busy life of the church, report on issues of maintenance, churchyard upkeep and fundraising to full meetings of the Council.
The annual income raised by us has risen to over £25,000. But our expenditure in the most recent financial year has been £28,000. In all normal years the largest single expenditure item is our Parish Share, currently £16,000, which pays for the cost of our priest and contributes a small amount towards diocesan and Church of England central funds. Our total assets in cash and investments stand at £70,000.
St. Mary’s mission
Over the past three years at St. Mary’s, we have given much attention to re-assessing our mission of worship and service for the 21st Century. We have worked, first, to agree our objectives as Christian witnesses in a rapidly changing world. We have then moved on to specifying the practical steps needed to make those objectives achievable.
A simple statement in response to our bishops’ Pastoral Letter of 2004 summarises our mission objectives:
“At the core [of the issue] is the need to decide whether we should just look after the Church community or seek also to engage non-regular churchgoers in the parish. We have decided on the latter, and we will strive for success in making St. Mary’s Church more useable for all who live in the parish.”
Based on this statement of intent, four themes for further development have been identified and are currently being refined. The related themes are:
As St. Mary’s prepares to give effect to these missionary themes, one requirement is already clear. In order to engage with young people, families and the community we serve, new facilities must be created if good intentions are to be translated into action.
And new facilities, in the context of Amport parish, can only mean a significant reordering of the structure and furnishings of St. Mary’s Church itself, a challenge which we wholly accept: St. Mary’s is the only public building in Amport capable of responding to the needs we have identified.
This is a project which will give new life and relevance to our 700 year old church. It will provide for Amport’s community needs far into the new century.
In the pages that follow, the details of our £170,000 reordering and restoration scheme are set out. We ask for your help in realising these objectives.
REORDERING ST. MARY’S CHURCH
A quotation from one of our Appeal Patrons:
“I really think that the most awful thing was giving
village halls Lottery funds. The pews should be taken out of churches and
churches returned to what they were: a place for communities to gather - where
For the past 150 years successive generations at Amport have had reason to be grateful to our Victorian forefathers. Had it not been for the refurbishment of 1866-7, undertaken by the architects Slater and Carpenter and substantially funded by the Marquess of Winchester, the dilapidations at St. Mary’s Church could have become irreversible.
In fact the church was saved. Salvation, however, came at some cost, since our architects and their Patron pursued their scheme of improvements with an uncompromising vigour which, though regarded as sensitive by some commentators, has actually proved ill suited to the changing needs of the church today.
It is worth noting briefly how the discrepancy between past good intentions and present practice has arisen:
Slater and Carpenter were designing for an age when church attendance was almost universal, especially in country areas. At the same time, the pre-reformation practice of using the church for a range of community purposes had largely lapsed, leaving the services of the Book of Common Prayer as the principal activity. Those services had been unchanged since the restoration of Charles II and were confidently expected to remain so. Experiment with new styles of worship was thus unknown, while popular activities of a non-religious type would have been discouraged as unseemly.
Ironically one of the main problems faced by the architects in 1866 was a lack of seating in the unrestored building. Slater and Carpenter’s response was to remove the church’s 15 box pews and refill the nave with two long ranks of fixed pine pews, seating well over 100. The concept of a flexible space, adaptable to a variety of uses, still lay many decades in the future. The contrast with today’s requirements could scarcely be more marked.
The structural and internal elements of the reordering project are straightforward. In the text below, the passages in italics are verbatim extracts from the written recommendations approved by St. Mary’s PCC in August 2005.
1. The Nave
A more flexible space for movement in conducting services, with opportunities for wider usage by the Amport community and the school community for concerts, talks and large meetings.
This is the flexible seating issue, summarised above. Fixed pews will be replaced by free-standing, stackable chairs which can be set out to meet the needs of particular services or events. Even at normal Sunday services, a group of, say, 50 seats is distinctly preferable to a scattered congregation dispersed among lines of pews. Modern and effective lighting and sound systems will replace existing installations.
2. The Church Porch
This is a major new feature, which sub-divides into the following small projects:
This requires a significant rebuilding and enlargement of the present porch, with the kitchen and WC features incorporated. The main area of the porch itself, well insulated and heated, will provide the meeting room or creche space.
The porch as it now stands has few advocates. Sunk beneath the level of the surrounding churchyard, its approach is seriously constricted by a railed grave. The proposed rebuilding, greatly improves access as well as providing the new amenities. Externally the new design makes logic of a hitherto incoherent area.
3. Garden of Rest
There is an understandable public desire for a Garden of Rest. Cremations increase in numbers each year and are often the preferred choice of relatives on environmental grounds. Nevertheless the human desire to associate those who have died with a plot of earth remains undiminished.
4. Churchyard and Bats inside Church
Our purpose is to foster wildlife, to enhance the beauty and interest of the Churchyard and to contribute to environmental studies at our Primary School and among other young and adult visitors. To this end we take great care to protect our spring meadows of thousands of Snowdrops and Primulae. In addition, we have a strip of natural woodland for other wildlife. In the church, we protect three colonies of bats roosting. The bat survey required by law will cost us over £5,000.
RESTORING ST MARY’S CHURCH
The people of Amport are proud of St Mary’s, which is the finest building in the village, much admired by them and the many visitors. In addition to the four projects above, we will carry out further necessary structural works recommended by our architects in the Quinquennial Inspection of 2004, the detail of these being included in our schedule of costs overleaf.
(The costs below include, wherever possible, official first estimates.)
BALANCE TO BE RAISED: £135,000
* We have already committed our contribution of £40,000 by allocating £25,000 for the reordering of the Nave in February 2006, £15,000 to the Garden of Remembrance, window repairs, and towards the priority work on the building rainwater goods this winter. As final permissions are given and appropriate funds become available, the priority will be to do the high work on the tower in the Summer and Autumn, which will require full scaffolding. Then we will rebuild the Porch during Winter, hopefully that of 2006/7, when the Bats are roosting elsewhere.
RAISING THE FUNDS WE NEED
In order to raise the exceptional sum needed to complete our project, we plan to seek support from a variety of sources, both within the village and outside. External sources will include applications to companies and grant making Trusts.
These notes are for the guidance of individuals who may be contemplating a personal gift or perhaps a grant from a family firm.
Simply make your cheque payable to Amport Church Development Project and post it to us at the address below. We will write to thank you for your gift.
If you are a UK taxpayer, then we can claim an extra 28% on top of the sum you have given us once you have completed a simple Gift Aid Declaration which we will send you. The extra money comes to us from Inland Revenue at no additional cost to you. If you are a higher rate taxpayer, you can also claim tax relief on your gift at the difference between the higher rate and basic rate of tax.
A regular gift by standing order:
For many of us a small monthly contribution by banker’s order is the most convenient way of building up a significant gift. Amport Church can claim the tax benefits on every instalment if you decide to support us by this method.
Under the Gift Aid provisions, gifts made towards our development projects can be offset against corporation tax. We would be delighted if you choose to support us by a company donation.
Please let us know if you plan a coffee morning or other event. We will be most grateful for your efforts on our behalf.
A transfer of assets or a legacy
Should you decide to support us by a transfer of shares or assets, we will be pleased to make the necessary forms and advice available to you. Similarly, if you plan to remember us in your will, we will be happy to provide the necessary advice, should you require it.
CONTACT FOR ALL CORRESPONDENCE
David Mallam OBE
Tel/fax: 01264 772240
Please make cheques payable to "Amport PCC".
All gifts will be most gratefully received and will be personally acknowledged.
A Summer Evening at St Mary’s Church, Amport
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