Friends of St Mary's
St Mary’s church building dates back over a thousand years and, like all old buildings, needs a lot of care and maintenance. The Friends of St Mary’s was set up to support the preservation of the church building for the benefit of all villagers through fundraising from everyone in Bletsoe and beyond. Many people in the local community have supported the activities over the years so that villagers enjoy and use the church building in a variety of ways in addition to the regular services as well as keeping the most important and significant building in the village in good order.
The Friends main task for many years was to fund raise to sort out the building maintenance needs such as stonework, window repair, redecoration together with many smaller tasks and the community raised over £100,000 during a twenty year period. Fundraising was through a mixture of events, donations and especially the annual Bletsoe Country Fete which evolved from the church fete to support the restoration fund into a joint event with Bletsoe Village Hall that has raised in the region of £50,000 over the years for church restoration.
The success of the regular maintenance programme led to the major decision to restore and reopen the closed semi-derelict chancel and vestry of St Mary’s together with the installation of toilet and refreshment facilities which needed over £300,000 and took from 2013 to 2019. This was an extremely challenging project, managed by residents assisted by the church architect, Michael Dales, and required donations from individuals of some £150,000 and grants of a similar amount especially from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Beds & Herts Historic Churches Trust. The chancel was rededicated at a special Harvest Festival Service in September 2019 by the Bishop of Bedford.
We are grateful to the Sharnbrook Academy Media Department for their support in the production of a short video about the chancel project. Please click on the image below to watch the video.
Typical Friends events are social gatherings, often in Bletsoe Village Hall. Our special events page includes details of upcoming events and past events are highlighted below.
Hunting The Headstones