The Formation of The Lee Old Church Trust (1976-84)

In 1976 the Parochial Church Council met to review the situation. We can picture the dilapidated roof tiling, a dark interior, old panelling dado masking damp walls, little artificial light, an old coke stove, dingy ceilings, doors in a poor state of repair inadequate seating…

So! What was to be done? It was clear that the Church could not undertake the major work needed, nor was the State stepping forward to do something. Clearly it would be up to the people of The Lee.

Alternative ways forward were suggested and much paperwork was produced. Various possible courses of action were discussed:

  1. Close the building, declare it redundant and let it be maintained by the Redundant Churches Fund or possibly the Friends of Friendless Churches (a last resort most felt).
  2. The Roman Catholics to take over the church for celebration of the old Tridentine Mass.
  3. Allow the church to decay into ruin.
  4. The people of the Lee to come to the rescue.

The 1976 PCC meeting begat the next stage – a Public Meeting in 1977. This begat a Committee of Inquiry which begat a Report, in 1978, which begat a Steering Group. 

The Public Meeting was well attended and expressed unequivocally a desire that the Church should remain as a place of worship.  Considerable interest had been aroused; it had become an important local issue. A committee of enquiry was elected with representatives from the Parochial Church Council. Encouraged by the direction the debate was taken, the PCC financed emergency roof repairs in May 1977 at a cost of £650.

The 1978 report recommending a plan for restoration and the creation of a Trust was accepted by the P.C.C. 

In deciding on a Trust a main factor was the involvement of the community. The relationship between, on the one hand a body of folk, not necessarily worshippers, but taken with the concept of this local focus of interest; and on the other hand the congregation. This was and still is an exercise in communication.

All this took time, as things do in the country. Six whole years after that first meeting, the Trust formed in September 1982 and was registered at the Charity Commissioners in 1983. During these years of ‘formalities’, folk were not idle in raising funds. An Appeal was launched in June 1979. A Midsummer Carnival was held in 1979 and an auction of valuables in 1980. In fact by 1982 a total of nearly £14,000 had been raised … and £12,500 spent! The fund raisers are legion and we will mention no personalities with one exception, the late Arthur Stewart-Liberty. He started the fund-raising ball rolling.

A small band of volunteers were at work firstly to arrest weather penetration, attending especially to roof tiles. This considerable effort was largely unsung but shows the regard for the building. It was a pioneering labour of love, not without risk of injury and a precursor of the working parties that followed later.

In September 1982 The Lee Old Church Trust was established.  At the first AGM in 1984 officers and Trustees were appointed – representing Church, parish and the community; a management committee was appointed. The Trust Deed sets out the purposes of the Trust (in brief):

  • to promote the preservation, adornment and maintenance of the building and the churchyard 10 metres to the East
  • to promote its use for worship or other charitable purposes.

Continue to The Old Church Trust – Recent History