We have launched our St. Mary’s 600 Appeal to raise £600,000 to preserve our church and the Bede House, and to celebrate the 600 years since the founding of the Bede House and Chichele College by Henry Chichele, Archbishop of Canterbury.
The St Mary's 600 Appeal was launched in October 2020 and planned in two main phases.
Phase 1 was complete by October 2022. In those two years funds were raised in a wide variety of ways enabling us to completely replace the antiquated heating system (£126,000), create and equip a brand new Servery (£30,000) and to have work completed upon the spire and stonework of the church both external and internal (£93,000).
Now we are focusing on Phase 2 by fundraising for work needed on another of our Grade 1 Listed buildings - the Bede House. Generations of youngsters (myself included) have grown up enjoying attending Brownies, Guides and Rangers groups here or having fun at Holiday Clubs, Youth Fellowship and a multitude of children's parties and activities. Grown ups have held their celebrations here too with weddings, anniversary and birthday celebrations. The Bede House hosts the monthly Farmers Market Coffee Mornings (on the last Saturday of each month during the year) as well as concerts, quiz nights, Medieval Banquets, Christmas celebrations, Barn Dances - in fact every possible community occasion that you can think of. You can also find Morning Worship and Breakfast Church taking place in the Bede House on certain Sundays of the month.
As you can see, the Bede House nestling in the grounds of our beautiful parish church dedicated to St Mary, is vital to the life of our town but it is currently very much in need of repair, and that's a major undertaking when it is a six hundred year old Grade 1 Listed building that is the responsibility of the parish within which it sits. We are currently working to raise the next £200,000 to enable all the following repairs to be done -
1. Remove and replace tiles to the north side of the roof
2. Repair timbers and guttering as necessary
3. Re-mesh the eaves to protect from nesting birds
4. Repair external stonework and the bell-cot, undertake similar work to the south side as necessary and repair the fireplace chimney where water is entering the building.
The repairs started in the first week in August and the tiles have now all been stripped from the north facing roof allowing repairs to be made to the underlying timber as seen in the pictures
All of this is prior to moving inside to redecorate and make further improvements so that our Bede House can continue to be the community hub in the centre of our historic town. Thanks to a generous legacy left by a former parishioner along with some very successful fundraising events we are about half way towards raising the money needed for this vital work. Future fundraising events are listed on separate pages so please do support us by coming along to these or by organising an event of your own or offering a raffle prize or donation. All of these things will help us to complete Phase 2 of the 600 Appeal whilst ensuring the Bede House is ready and waiting for your next family occasion - your help will be much appreciated.
We are delighted to have as our Patrons, three supporters with a special link to Higham and the history of our three unique buildings, and of course to the Archbishop of Canterbury in the 15th century, Henry Chichele, who was founder of The Bede House, the Chantry Chapel, Chichele College and All Souls College, Oxford.
Our Appeal Patrons are:
The Lord-Lieutenant of Northamptonshire, James Saunders Watson Esq.
The Lord Bishop of Peterborough,
The Warden of All Souls College, Oxford, Professor Sir John Vickers
James Saunders Watson says:
“I am delighted to be invited to be a Patron of the St Mary’s 600 Appeal. The Appeal Committee have set themselves a herculean task of raising £600,000 to preserve the Church and Bede House. This project is not just focussing on restoring the fabric of the buildings but also making them fit for purpose for the 21st Century. The success of this campaign should ensure that the parish Church of St Mary’s and the Bede House remain at the heart of Higham Ferrers for a further 600 years.”
The former Bishop of Peterborough says:
The Church of England’s Diocese of Peterborough covers all of Northamptonshire and Rutland as well as the city of Peterborough. It includes over 350 churches, 150 of them Grade-1 listed. Among those, St Mary’s Higham Ferrers, with the Bede House, stands out as an architectural and historical gem.
Pevsner’s architectural guide to Northamptonshire calls St Mary’s “very grand” and describes its “superb spire.” The reason that buildings of this age and complexity continue to stand is that they have been used and loved through the centuries. To keep them in place, we must keep them in use. This excellent programme of restoration and refurbishment aims to do exactly that. I gladly commend the appeal to you.
Professor John Vickers says:
As the head of the other Chichele College, which is younger than his foundation in Higham Ferrers by over ten years, I am delighted to offer my patronage and wholehearted support to the 600 Appeal,which aims to preserve and enhance the two surviving institutions in which Chichele had a hand, the Church and the Bede House. Times change. The Higham Ferrers community has other priorities now than the college of canons, clerics and choristers that Chichele planned in 1422. But he was always a pragmatist. He would have recognised that, in Higham Ferrers as in Oxford, ancient institutions and their buildings must always develop and adapt if they are to remain true to their essential purposes. That is why I commend this appeal to you and wish it all success in its anniversary year.
How will the money be used?
To repair crumbling stonework on the spire – this work has already begun
To enable the construction of a servery in the church
To refurbish the Bede House.
How can you help?
If you care about St Mary’s, whether because you worship with us, or were baptised or married in the church ─ or maybe simply love the architecture, heritage or history of our wonderful mini Cathedral close, you can help us in a number of ways:
Give a one-off donation with Gift Aid if possible
Set up a monthly donation
Organise a mini fundraising event for us (and a bigger one once our world opens up again).
How to donate
Donate via the BACS system (sort code 30-96-09; account number 84427260; account St Mary the Virgin PCC Higham 600 Appeal)
Cheques should be made payable to St Mary the Virgin PCC Higham 600 Appeal.