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Northamptonshire has a remarkable array of medieval churches, as well as many fine churches and chapels from later centuries.
As John Betjeman described it:
"Northampton above all counties has variety, originality and elegance in its architecture. "
There is hardly a medieval church in the county which is without beautiful stonework, and, of course, those soaring spires.
Northamptonshire Historic Churches Trust (NHCT) is celebrating its 60th birthday this year.
It exists to make grants for the care of churches in Northamptonshire.
It is part of a network of independent trusts in each county, which together lobby nationally for our unique heritage of places of worship.
The Trust responds to applications from individual churches and makes grants of between £250 and £5,000 to help prime the pump and find the balance between what a church can raise from its own efforts and grants from elsewhere.
In our benefice in recent years the trust has funded replacement of a stained glass window vandalised in the porch of St Mary Easton Neston and given £1000 towards the new boiler.
Many congregations bear witness to the encouragement that this gives to those involved in the difficult and time-consuming business of caring for churches.
All told, in recent years, NHCT has made total grants to Northamptonshire churches of the order of £45,000 per annum.
This has really helped churches in their fundraising and made a significant improvement to the fabric of those buildings, many of which are supported by small, but loyal, congregations.
In addition to repairs to the structure of churches and their fixtures and fittings, such as monuments and stained glass, the Trust has also assisted in making the best use of churches for today’s needs, with repairs to services, and the installation of lavatories and kitchens.
All this is intended to keep our churches in good working order.
In order to do this, the Trust, as an independent charity, has to raise funds, which it does through individual donations and legacies.
Primarily, the NHCT (as do other county trusts) organises a major annual fund-raising event, called Ride and Stride, in which sponsored participants cycle or walk between as many churches as they choose.
This is held on the second Saturday of September each year, this year on Saturday 12th September.
Everyone who takes part says it is a most enjoyable and friendly event, and the funding raised really makes a difference to the churches of Northamptonshire which we all value.
To find out more about this event, and about the work of the Trust generally, and how you can make application for a grant (with further details of what we do and do not support), do look at our website www.nhct.org.uk, or contact the Chairman, John White.
Northamptonshire Historic Churches Trust keeps its administrative costs to an absolute minimum; all the work is undertaken by volunteers.
Half the money raised by individual Churches is returned to the Church raising the money and all the money retained goes to helping with the preservation of the wonderful inheritance of Northamptonshire’s churches, many now in very small communities.