60th Anniversary Weekend

After much research and planning (the Wiltshire Archive at Chippenham is a fascinating place, well worth a visit) we invited as many Friends who could be there to join us for a weekend of events to commemorate the founding of the Society in July 1956 (at least that is the date of the first Minutes available to read in the Archive) and celebrate our 60th Anniversary.


On the Saturday morning, all the Secret Corners of the church were open, there was a great display of historical material, the copes were on show, John Swain was playing the organ, the bellringers were in the tower practising (using the simulator) and it was lovely to see Friends from far and wide. Bishop Ed Condry, our new President, came to join us and there was a very happy buzz around the church. There are still a good number of founder members who came too, and they really enjoyed reading all the old Minutes and documents.

After a delicious lunch in the Parish Hall, Caroline Webb came to talk to us about what she does. I don’t think any of us really had much idea of what is involved in being a lettercarver, but she gave the most wonderfully informative illustrated talk and left us feeling rather in awe of such an under-sung but important craft. Did you know, for instance, that for every commission a lettercarver fashions a whole new style of lettering to suit the task? One of her biggest and most recent commissions was for Westminster Cathedral, creating an inscription in marble to commemorate the Pope’s visit in 2010. Caroline comes from a long line of illustrious artists and craftsmen, including Sir Aston Webb a previous president of the RA and RIBA who designed Admiralty Arch and the front of the Victoria and Albert Museum amongst many other buildings you would know. Caroline’s grandfather has stained glass work in many of the big cathedrals including Salisbury, Exeter and Southwark and her father is one of the finest silversmiths of our time. We are very proud to have work by both father and daughter in the church. Indeed when next in the Chancel, look carefully at Ralph Dudley’s stone. Caroline did that. At the end of her talk, Caroline gave a brief demonstration, carving into stone. It was a real privilege to be shown such a skill by someone who obviously loves what they do. 

We then had a pause and time for a breather before going back down to church for Evensong. In Ecclesia had expressed a wish to sing at Edington a while ago. Singing Stanford in B flat and a rousing rendition of Parry’s I was glad, they rounded off the day beautifully for us.

On Sunday, the church was full for the Dedication Service, taken by Bishop Humphrey Southern, followed by a very convivial Bring and Share lunch. This is the moment in our church calendar when a huge thank you is extended to everyone who helps keep everything together – from those who mow, dust, and flower-arrange to the more spiritual side of things. The Friends were invited to be part of this in recognition of their contribution over the past 60 years.

It is quite something to think that a small organisation, started in 1956, has grown and done so much to support the PCC in all the works that have needed to be done to keep the fabric of this beautiful building in reasonable repair. Ralph Dudley’s vision lives on both in the Festival and in what we do.

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