The Friends of St Mary’s Church – the support group for the 12th century parish church in Long Wittenham – has a new chairman and secretary. Dominic Jarman replaces Jeremy Croxson who has been the chairman for 11 years and a member of the group since its inception in 1994. Martin Elliff takes over as secretary from Ruth McCreight who leaves the position also after 11 years.
At the Friends annual general meeting in June both Mr Croxson and Mrs McCreight were praised for their hard work and contributions in helping to establish the group which plays a vital role in supporting the church in the community.
Mr Croxson said the original aim of the Friends was to help the church by providing the “little extras” that would help make the church friendlier and bring it more into the centre of village life.
The Friends’ biggest project is a new disabled access toilet which is expected to cost between £60,000 and £80,000. The Friends have pledged £35,000 and it is hoped that grants will cover the balance.
Outline plans have been agreed by the Diocese and the district council and the architect is preparing tender documents. Work on the project is expected to start later this year. Once this is completed there are plans for a new servery.
Mr Jarman said: “The new facilities will greatly enhance the use of the church for conventional purposes such as weddings and christenings but also for community events, performances and presentations. They will be a valuable asset to the church and the community.”
During the last year the Friends have provided funds for a set of new chairs to replace the pews by the north door and helped with the professional fees for the building project.
Mr Jarman said: “The Friends are keen to help with the preservation of our ancient church in the life of the village while at the same time having fun. Our barn dance in May raised £389.”
The next fund raising event will be on 18th November when the guest speaker will be George McGavin, author, academic, television presenter and explorer who has worked with David Attenborough on many BBC nature programmes.