Even in George Herbert’s time. the clergy had to take an interest in and look after the fabric of buildings – in his case, it was his parish churches and his rectory, and of course the church at Leighton Bromswold, which he almost had to rebuild. One way or another, I still seem to spend a lot of my time involved with buildings.
What voluntary community-based organisation is involved in activities and campaigns to improve the environment and enrich the quality of life in Salisbury and South Wiltshire? The Church? Well yes, I would hope we do do that, but it is also the manifesto of Salisbury Civic Society. Perhaps because of my work with St John's, or my architectural background, I found myself chairing the judging panel for the Society’s annual awards to new buildings of merit this year. It was such a delightful and surprising day - driving round Wiltshire with four other like-minded souls and getting to explore and discuss some real architectural gems. Again and again we saw attention to detail, commitment and passion for the landscape, history and material
As a designer I am particularly interested in how layouts work and in creating a sense of place, but others drew my eye to particular elements - the walnut handrail, the bronze window fittings, the open stair riser allowing light into the building. The next day I am back in Herbert’s world of dear St Andrew's, and there are the elements he speaks of: the porch, the altar, the floor, windows and lock and key. The day had refreshed me to look with new eyes - and see the familiar anew.
In Herbert’s day the hamlet of Quidhampton next to Lower Bemerton was part of the Pembroke Estate. Nowadays it has a pub (but no church) and 250 lovely houses and, if you’re on the right side of the road, a beautiful river frontage. Some time last century a small mission hut was built there by the church, to house Sunday school meetings and the like. It remains the property of the Rector of Bemerton and I think I receive £5 a year for rent! There is a question mark over its future, however. The lease is due for renewal in April 2019, around Brexit time, and the building is not in good repair. Should the village save it and breathe new life in it? Would the church take it on and rescue it?
I was asked to address a meeting last week, my first in 13 years in the parish, and there was a great turn out. I tried to convey the balance between wanting to save the building and to see it used, and the need for money elsewhere which meant I might want to sell the plot or build a house there. What I did get across was that this was their opportunity - to get it used, to care about it enough. There are wealthy people around so I needed them to know it wasn’t simply about money, it was about community. I hope I succeeded. After all, as a member of the Civic Society I want to be about enriching the quality of life, not simply keeping old buildings in aspic.
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