The annual meeting of the Friends and Trustees of the Dorset Historic Churches Trust takes place each autumn in one of the larger churches of the county. This year’s meeting at St Mary’s, Swanage, proved a very good choice especially for those who were not previously familiar with a church which is full of interest.
For a history of the building, its development over the centuries and its relationship to the changing town of Swanage and its quarrying, maritime and tourist industries, we turned to Dr Tim Connor. His authoritative and entertaining views are always appreciated by Friends. Similarly, Sue Smith’s thoughtful and knowledgeable discussion of the stained glass taught her audience to look carefully and to appreciate the artistry of glass that, in the case of St Mary’s, chiefly dates from recent decades, following loss of original windows to bombing during the Second World War.
Musical interludes always contribute much to the texture and enjoyment of this event. This year we were most fortunate to have three musical elements, each refreshingly different from the last. The intimate classical guitar playing of Christopher Daly was a fine example of the way that such a quiet instrument can draw in the listener. The recently-restored organ in St Mary’s was then showcased by David Bruce-Payne who performed a widely varied short programme, with Sue Bruce-Payne at the piano. Finally, at the end of the day, the Purbeck Village Quire sang a very pleasing mini-concert of music from the period of the West Gallery musicians – those heroes of traditional church music who were swept away by the zeal of Victorian reformers.
A high point of the day was the presentation by Treleven Haysom (introduced to us as Trev) an expert on Purbeck minerals such as the marbles and limestones which feature so prominently in the construction and decoration of so many of Dorset’s churches. There had been references, before Trev rose to speak, to the pre-eminent position of Swanage in the stone industry. Trev is the owner of Haysom (Purbeck Stone)and Landers quarries , and his vast experience became evident as he took us round St Mary’s church and drew our collective attention to the particular qualities of the stones of which it is constructed.
The social aspect of the day is equally important in many ways. The fifty five Friends and Trustees present on this occasion found plenty to discuss and compare about aspects of the building being visited, about restoration works at their own churches, and about the curiosity of Dorset ecclesiastical architecture in general – not to mention many other themes. The hospitality of the home team at St Mary’s who provided coffee, tea and lunch helped to make this a happy and relaxed occasion where names and faces were matched, new friendships established and old ones cemented.
The Chairman of DHCT, Simon Pomeroy, presided cordially over the event and proposed a vote of thanks to Trustee Mike Warren who had shouldered most of the burden of arranging the day.
As the year wanes, not only were DHCT Christmas cards for sale, but members also looked forward to a range of exciting events for 2018, including a new series of winter lunch-lectures and summer Church Crawls. Visit the Friends page at www.dhct.org.uk for further details as they are published.
The Friends gather at the West Door of St Mary’s Swanage
Mr Trev Haysom traces the origins of a memorial stone at St Mary’s Swanage
Mr Trev Haysom answers questions from the Friends
The Purbeck Village Quire sing in St Mary’s Swanage