750th birthday for village church

A milestone event for Draycott takes place this weekend – the 750th birthday party on Saturday (20th Oct) when there is a history day, with speakers and displays and refreshments; while on the Sunday there is a special church service, at which a banner outlining the village’s history will be unveiled.
Click here for details of these events.

Saving our heritage

Until recent years, it’s been assumed that parish churches are the responsibility of no one but the church congregations.
But nowadays it’s different – parish churches, especially one as ancient as St Margaret’s, are seen to be part of all our comon communal heritage, so all us local residents (believers or not) have a part to play in saving that heritage.
Draycott Church postcard

At St Margaret’s, a small team of such dedicated volunteers have been doing amazing stuff to preserve the church.
The ancient bells have been renovated (some of them are 500 years old!); in and around the churchyard, the pathways have been upgraded, including the public footpath; the leaking roof has been fixed, at great expense; open days are now held once a month over the summer; and the chimes were restored only a few months ago, to now make a lovely sound on the hour.

Cresswell resident John Clarke is the ‘front-man’ on many of these projects, but he is flanked by quite a few other hard-working locals. For instance, one reason that the ‘new’ churchyard is so well maintained is that a Church Lane resident voluntarily hauls his lawn-mower over there to cut the grass every so often!

Research

The church’s local historians never stop their work either.
We have reported down the years on the research documents compiled by enthusiasts about the church, not to mention the church guides (see list of documents).
One of the most interesting of these was very hard to get hold of up to now; but, the good news is that it has now become much more accessible. We’re referring the record of the gravestones in the churchyard. This might sound like a morbid read, but to a family historian it is fascinating!

The original project to record all the St Margaret’s gravestones and their inscriptions goes back to 1982 when members of the Draycott Women’s Institute got out their wellies and their magnifying glasses to go study the nearly 300 gravestones – every one of them – and faithfully record what they saw.
This document was only photo-copied into four brochures however (then sent off to various libraries) and it has been very hard for the ordinary person to get hold of it. Well, that’s all changed now: if you have a computer, you can now download the whole document for just £3 ! (Click on this link to see).

Just a casual read of the record throws up all sorts of quirky history. For example, the record for Gravestone 228 reads: “Here lieth ye body of ELLIZ daughter of NATHANIEL TAYLOR Rector of Checkley. Of ANN dau; JAMES WHITEHALL Rector of Checkley of JOHN SHERRATT Rector of Draycott who died July 1725.” It certainly sounds like the families of these various rectors (i.e. vicars) were very close!
The record has since been updated by Annita Mobbs (1988), Alf Beard (2002) and Marion Hall (2010); and now includes burials in the ‘new’ churchyard as well.

Fundraising

All these projects, whether structure projects or research projects, have not cost the tax-payer a penny. The money to achieve them has been raised through donations, grants and the sheer hard work of fundraising.
(The only input by the Staffs Moorlands district council is that they cut the grass in the ‘old’ churchyards.)

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Donations are becoming a big thing. You’ve probably noticed in the local newspaper-obituaries how a few folk now are leaving something in their wills “for the upkeep of the parish church”. The same is happening here in Draycott: the late Jean Edwards (born a Shelley, a family known for its support of the church) even wanted donations to the church at her funeral instead of flowers – a generous gesture.

These days, the history of our local villages is fast disappearing. Historic buildings are being pulled down (remember what happened to Painsley Hall?) or ‘renovated’; pubs are closing all the time (remember the Izaak Walton?); long-established village societies just fold; and even old schools disappear (e.g. the one that used to be in Church Lane).
Parish churches are often all that’s left intact of a village’s communal past.

So… if you ever find yourself with an extra few quid, and you want to see the collective memories of this village preserved, why not think of dropping a cheque off to St Margaret’s? If you want the money used only for repairs and restoration, simply mark your cheque “for the repair fund only”.
And… you never know… St Margaret’s might even make it to its 1000th birthday!

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History Day Event details

History Open Day at Draycott St Margaret’s Church on Sat 20 October from 1pm, with displays marking the church’s 750th anniversary, including photos from the last 100 years. Local historian Levison Wood will also guide a group around the village from 2pm; and another local historian Matthew Pointon will gave a talk in the church from 3pm.
Refreshments will be available. Free; no booking required.

Service of Celebration at Draycott St Margaret’s Church on Sunday 21 October at 10am, marking the church’s 750th anniversary. The Bishop Of Stafford is attending. All welcome, whether regular attenders or not.
Refreshments follow the service.
A specially-made banner, outlining the village’s history will be unveiled after the service.

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