Category: Latest News

Vice Chairman to retire after 11 years of service

After many years of excellent service on 16th April 2022, Chris Hawkings will be relinquishing his role as a trustee and Vice Chairman of Somerset Churches Trust. Those involved with the trust during Chris’s tenure will appreciate that he has worked diligently and effectively to promote the trusts’ stated aims and objectives. Fellow trustees would like to express sincere gratitude to Chris for that dedication.

Chris will have served 11 years as a trustee and under the terms of the Trust Deed must stand down.  He has been involved with the trust since 2009 when, following his retirement from Ecclesiastical Insurance as a Senior Surveyor, he took up the role of Ride+Stride Organiser, at the suggestion of his wife Gill, who was Membership Secretary at the time. Chris held this position until 2017, during which time over £140,000 was raised for Churches in Somerset.

From 2011 until 2017 Chris was a member of the National Ride+Stride Standing Committee working with the National Churches Trust, and suggested the inclusion of “for churches” in the national Ride+Stride logo, having realised that the media really had no idea what the event was all about.

In 2017 Chris obtained a grant of £30,00 from Allchurches Trust allowing Somerset Churches Trust to make grants to 23 churches to help them install roof alarms following a huge upsurge in the theft of lead from our churches.

Over the years, Chris has played a part in various aspects of the work of the trust, including involvement with the relaunch of Friends of Somerset Churches and Chapels as Somerset Churches Trust in 2013 and the development and launch of the trust’s new website in 2021.

Chris says “It has been a great privilege to be involved with the trust and to play a small part in the preservation and improvement to widen the community use of our wonderful Somerset churches.”

New volunteers to help and support the work of the trust are most welcome to make themselves known and in the first instance, please make contact here






February Newsletter from our Chairman

With news of a recent and challenging project to deliver in Bridgwater, click here to read about our Chairman’s visit to St John’s Church and hear about the fantastic success achieved by the Rev Lis Sparrow. The SCT is delighted to have been able to help secure the fabric of this special place of worship.

January Newsletter from our Chairman

This month SCT Chairman, Axel Palmer, visits Exmoor and a remote church in Nettlecombe. Information aplenty too about how to research and study our rich heritage vested in ecclesiastical buildings, and more resources listed as now available online for us all. Simply click here

The Somerset Churches Trust supports St Cuthbert’s Church Event Saturday 19th March 2022

St Cuthbert’s Church in Wells is holding a special celebration of their extraordinary painted statues on Saturday 19th March from 10.00am to 4.00pm. These statues are 550 years old and survived a determined attempt to destroy them during the reformation. Trustees of the Somerset Churches Trust visited St Cuthbert’s recently to learn more about this stunning collection of statuary.

In 2020 the extraordinary painted statues of St Cuthbert’s Church should have celebrated their 550th birthday but we all know what happened that year!  We tried to hold the celebration a year late in 2021 but yet again we were defeated by covid.   So here we go with a third attempt – on Saturday 19th March 2022 from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm.


Back in 1470, of course,  it would have been quite usual to have plans messed up by an outbreak of plague, so the medieval fragments of prophets and princes will probably be very forgiving about the delay to their party caused by our modern pandemic!  These unique painted statue fragments have already had an amazing history.  They were destroyed in the Reformation and hidden behind plaster until 1848 when they were re-discovered.  Miraculously they were kept and now form probably the largest collection of 15th century painted sculptures in the country.


The celebration event takes the form of a study day looking at the story of these rare survivors from quarried stone to a digital future.  Church archaeologist, Jerry Sampson, is one of the speakers; together with Lynne Humphries and Emma Norris who are experts in medieval paint.  There will be a demonstration of stone carving and local chamber choir, the Swan Singers, will perform a short concert of appropriate music.  The day will end with a son et lumière when a light display will give a glimpse into the stones’ colourful past and future.

The cost of the day (including coffee and a soup lunch) is £15.

Book tickets here 


St John’s Church, Bridgwater. A Success Story!

A major part of the satisfaction derived from being so closely involved with the work of the Trust is the opportunity to visit so many wonderful churches, not just at the time grant applications are being made but also on completion of the relevant works for which a grant may have been awarded. It is gratifying to witness the positive results of  the efforts applied by everybody involved in bringing a project through to a successful conclusion, whether they be the architect, the contractor and of course most importantly the incumbent and their team and their congregation.

Repair work continues to represent the main recipient of our grants and whilst leaking roofs or tower repairs may not be readily visible to the casual observer, their importance to the maintenance of the fabric and the continuing use of the building as a vibrant and uplifting place of worship cannot be ignored. I would particularly like to highlight from recent awards the successful outcome at St John’s, Bridgwater. The church is within a challenging urban environment where until the present incumbent, Lis Sparrow, arrived some six years ago, the congregation had been dwindling and the condition of the church itself was deteriorating. Both lighting and heating were improved through local resources but last year it became apparent that a major failure of the tower roof could no longer be ignored by the judicious distribution of buckets beneath.  Lis embarked upon the herculean task of raising in excess of £100k, which she achieved in a matter of a few months and, against the further challenges of the pandemic, the work has recently been completed.  Her determination and commitment are an inspiration to us all and it’s pleasing to note that not only is the church now light, warm and dry but is also witnessing a significant increase in its congregation and in the outreach work being undertaken in the local community. The Trust is delighted to have made a contribution to support this project and the work of this church in the local community.

Anthony Sutcliffe – Grants Secretary

Annual Meeting November 2021

On a chilly autumn evening at the Wells Museum, the Somerset Churches Trust held its Annual Meeting followed by a lecture on the subject of Romanesque Churches in Somerset.  This was a particularly special opportunity for members and trustees to meet as no such meeting had been possible in 2020 owing to covid restrictions. This was well attended and members were brought up to date on the activities of the Trust over the last year. Thank you to everyone who attended and for the positive and helpful comments which were made.

The Annual Meeting was very well attended and the Newsletter compiled by Chair Axel Palmer is available to read here. 

Treasurer Tony Davies reported on the trust’s finances. Click here to read the Annual Report and Accounts for the Year Ending 30 June 2021.

Trustee, Marion Jeffrey recounts her skydive to raise money for Somerset churches


Ride+Stride+Glide 11th September 2021

A never-to-be-repeated fundraiser. Possibly! On the 25th anniversary of Somerset Churches Trust and the 20th anniversary of 9/11, what could possibly go wrong with a tandem skydive? Just about every possibility had gone through my mind in advance, and then 48 hours before, I decided to stop worrying and enjoy the ride. 10,000 feet of descent, 6000 feet in freefall and 4000 feet cushioned by parachute. An exhilarating thrill and definitely faster than going anywhere by bike! I didn’t see any churches en route but I did feel a little closer to heaven. My son had bought me this thrill as a birthday present and it simply seemed right to convert it into an opportunity to fundraise both for the SCT and my local church St Petrock’s in Timberscombe given the planned date of 11th September. Armed with my Ride+Stride personalised t-shirt I was ready to face the elements and experience the euphoria of a 32ft/sec/sec drop. And euphoric it was, utterly thrilling and exciting. It takes a while to come down to earth after an experience like that.