St Mary and All Saints Church, Droxford
St Mary and All Saints in Droxford is an attractive early Norman church still bearing many features of the mid- to late-12th Century. The church was enlarged by the addition of the north aisle in the late 12th Century and the south aisle in the 13th Century. It is Grade 1 listed, but now the tower and other parts of the fabric are in urgent need of restoration and the church has been listed by English Heritage on the ‘at risk’ register.
Droxford church can accommodate up to 300 people with seats for about 225. It is unusual in having two side chapels. The South Chapel is furnished as a quiet worship space, and used for weekday services. The North Chapel has recently been cleared by re-siting the organ, and is currently used as a vestry while heritage investigations are ongoing.
Faced with the challenges of urgent restoration and the declining use of the Church building three years ago, the Rector and the PCC encouraged the creation of the Friends of Droxford Church. From the outset the Friends’ objectives were not only to raise funds for restoration, but also to enhance the facilities to make the building more fit for purpose. The Friends have successfully appealed to a wide range of people who are not church-goers but care passionately about their village church, and want it to be there in times of need or simply value its heritage.
In May 2014, an application for a grant of £220,000 was made to the Heritage Lottery Fund for the urgent structural repairs. This is an essential first step in the realisation of our vision for the church as a vibrant community hub and heritage centre. Our application was granted following the final application in May 2015.
Activity Plan and Cafe
The existing congregation is not large enough to sustain the church building even in a restored state, However discussion with community stakeholders in the village has confirmed the value of a traditional venue using the full capacity of the building (c.250) for secular and religious events, and also a requirement for a community room in which committees, councils, discussion groups, and social care groups (c.12-25) could meet in a comfortable environment. We are investigating the feasibility of running a Community Café in the church, with the encouragement of the Diocese and the local community. A provisional rota of volunteers is currently being drawn up.
We have identified an additional opportunity for a permanent Heritage Centre to facilitate the growing interest in Local History, beginning with the re-discovery of the Meon Valley Saxon heritage, and through the building of the Church in the 12th Century, up to the historic D-Day meetings of Churchill and the Allied Commanders at Droxford Station in June 1944, whose 70th anniversary we celebrated last year. By presenting the church as a focus for the interpretation of our heritage we will enable more visitors of all ages to explore and engage with the church itself, the history of Droxford and the Meon Valley area. We are working with an experienced Heritage Consultant to help us define how we should interpret and display our heritage.
Our plans for the church have received widespread support from the community, including the Droxford Parochial Church Council, Droxford Parish Council (including the Parish Plan Group), Hampshire County Council, South Downs National Park Authority, our Winchester City Councillor, Droxford Junior School and Droxford Country Fair.
Update January 2017
Restoration and interior works
Our prime contractor, R J Smith, has completed the second phase of the Community Hub Project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Parochial Church Council and the Friends of Droxford Church (FODC). The next phase will be the installation of glass screens in the North Chapel area in late February. This enclosure will create the space for a Community Room and Café in the north chapel.
The Heritage group coordinated by Michael Chandler plans to arrange a further public consultation meeting in late March. For further information concerning the heritage activities please contact Michael Chandler on 01489 878741 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Church Community Hub
Planning continues for the Community Hub extension to house essential facilities i.e. kitchen, toilets, storage and administration. This is an essential condition of the Heritage Lottery Fund grant, and has received outline approval from the Diocese, Historic England and SDNPA. The project is supported by Hampshire County Council which has awarded up to £75,000.