Friends of Holy Trinity

The Friends of Holy Trinity Headington Quarry was dissolved in 2023. It was founded in 2002 as a focus for support from well-wishers in the community, and further afield, in order to safe-guard the future of a much-loved village church in a city.

Friends of Holy Trinity Headington Quarry: A Short History

The First Phase: 2002–2005

Holy Trinity is an attractive small church, designed by George Gilbert Scott and erected in 1849, originally for the benefit of the inhabitants of Headington Quarry but now with much wider appeal and association, notably arising from its connection with C. S. Lewis. It is mostly built in the predominant local stone, which is soft and does not weather well. This lends the building an attractive venerability, but it does lead to problems when it comes to maintenance.

Every five years each church building in the Church of England is required to undergo an inspection by a qualified architect to assess its state of repair. The quinquennial inspection of Holy Trinity carried out in 2001 identified substantial areas of stonework needing renewal. The cost was beyond the congregation’s available resources, prompting a group of parishioners to meet on 4 October 2002 and resolve to set up a charity to be known as the Friends of Holy Trinity ‘to raise money to help pay the costs of maintaining the church building’. The Friends would not provide funds for general “housekeeping” bills, such as heating and lighting, and the Parish Diocesan Share. The fundraising net would be spread far beyond the immediate church family, but it was hoped that church members would want to become members of the friends and help to “kick start” this important initiative.’ Robert Twycross was elected Chairman.

[2003] A constitution for the Friends was drawn up and adopted on 12 January 2003, and the charity was registered with the Charity Commissioners on 6 February. The constitution defines the charity’s objects as being ‘to advance the Christian religion by the restoration, preservation, repair, maintenance, improvement and beautification’ of the church and churchyard and ‘any other buildings, structures and properties which are the responsibility of the Parochial Church Council’, as well as ‘the monuments, fittings, fixtures, stained glass, furniture, ornaments and chattels of the Church Properties’. Among other provisions, the charity may also ‘collect and disseminate information on all matters affecting the Objects’.

The first AGM of the Friends was held on 21 March, with an attendance of 17, and twelve apologies. Richard Lethbridge, Honorary Secretary of the Oxfordshire Historic Churches Trust, gave a talk on ‘Oxfordshire’s Historic Churches’. The first gift day took place on Trinity Sunday: combined with annual and life membership fees this made possible an initial contribution of £10,000 towards the cost of the quinquennial repairs.

[2004] Another successful gift day on Trinity Sunday 2004 resulted in a further grant of £8200, reducing the shortfall on the quinquennial work to some £16,000. At the AGM in June an audience of 25 enjoyed an illustrated talk entitled ‘Family History and the Lure of the Graveyard’, given by Alan Simpson of the Oxford Family History Society, with particular reference to a recently completed CD-ROM of the Holy Trinity churchyard. June saw the inauguration of what was to become a regular series of fundraising events, with ‘Music for a Summer Evening’ featuring local performers in a repertoire extending from Mozart to Gershwin. In September Elizabeth Rivington organised a tour of Magdalen College for twenty people, hosted by the President in person, and in November Angela Barlow presented her dramatic portrait of Charlotte Brontë at Headington Theatre entitled ‘Reader, I married him’.

[2005] The 2005 gift day brought in enough to enable the Friends, together with some accumulated funds and a contribution from the City Council, to pay off the remainder of the quinquennial work that had prompted the inauguration of the charity. At the AGM in June Terry Phipps talked about the Headington Morris Dancers. There was a fundraising lunch in July arranged by Ann Wells and Yanie Le Bas. In September the college visit was to Corpus Christi, with Seymour Spencer as guide. The facilities of the Headington Theatre were again called on twice this year. In June there was another ‘Music for a Summer Evening’ with the Cooper family and others in an attractively varied programme, and Angela Barlow returned in October with ‘After Chekhov’, featuring the playwright’s widow arriving from Moscow at a provincial Russian playhouse, where she finds memories of her late husband and of the plays they created together.

The Second Phase: 2006–2014

[2006] With the 2001 quinquennial work successfully completed (to the gratified surprise of the architect who carried out a much less demanding audit this year) the Friends turned their attention to fundraising for smaller items involving extraordinary expenditure which were likely to crop up in the future. In February the Windrush Ensemble and the retiring Holy Trinity organist Alex Hall gave a recital in the church of music by Bach, Handel, Grieg, and Elgar. At the AGM in May Lawrence Kelly gave a talk on ‘Maintaining the Fabric’, describing the features of the houses and walls of Quarry, which with its layout give it its special character, and suggesting some of the steps that ought to be taken to preserve them. Julia Cousins succeeded Robert Twycross as Chair of the Friends at this meeting. The annual gift day raised more than £4000 to build up funds, and the college visited this year was Keble, with Jennifer Brown as guide.

[2007] The major event of 2007 was a flower festival in memory of Jean Berryman, for many years leader of the flower arranging team.  This was held on Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 June (Trinity Sunday, which was a Gift Day) and was very much a community event with over thirty flower arrangements, where the congregation and local residents provided props and local businesses provided sponsorship. The theme was ‘Headington Quarry—Crafts and Skills Past and present’.  It included a demonstration of stone carving and letter cutting in the churchyard, a demonstration of lace making by Lorna Hicks, teas with homemade cakes served in the Coach House, and suggested walks around the Quarry with maps from 1899 adapted by Pat Whitehouse and Margaret Jackson.  Julia Cousins, Elizabeth Whitwick, and Diana Harrison coordinated the day which was very happy and successful. Alex Hall returned from his new home in St Albans to give a recital on the Saturday evening with works by Bach, Buxtehude, Franck, and Vaughan Williams. And the preacher at the Sunday morning Eucharist was John Porter, coming back from France for the occasion. The evening Celebration Service saw the launch of the congregation’s own booklet of mostly modern worship songs, Quarry Praise, produced to supplement the solidly traditional Common Praise.  The whole weekend raised £6000. 

At the AGM Elizabeth Rivington gave a talk on the amazingly productive George Gilbert Scott. She also arranged a tour of a small selection of Oxford’s stained glass riches, led by Marie Ruiz, in September.

The year saw the first of the smaller grants which were to be the norm in this second phrase, this one funding the stabilisation of eight potentially dangerous gravestones.  

[2008] The Friends recital programme continued in 2008 with a recital of English and French Song by the mezzo-soprano Alison Kennedy accompanied on the recently acquired claviola (digital piano) by Holy Trinity’s new organist Sarah Lister, followed by a ‘Spring Entertainment’ in May, the readings and some of the music inspired by the season. On Friday 20 June there was a very successful evening auction, organised by Diana Harrison, with many willing helpers as ever, and with the vicar Tim Stead presiding in his garden over the disposal of a fascinating variety of objects and experiences: this caused much hilarity, and the event raised £2200. At the AGM Nancy Rowlinson gave an illustrated talk on Gardens Past and Present. The annual gift day was lent to the PCC this year to help the struggling congregational finances.

The regular visits organised by Elizabeth Rivington culminated appropriately in a tour of the Bodleian Library led by herself, as one of the volunteer guides: this took place in the spring and again by public demand in the autumn.

A fresh initiative was the production of a Christmas card, organised by Sally Thompson, in aid of the Friends, using a seasonal photograph of the church kindly given by Val Wells.

During the year the Friends made a grant of almost £6000 to cover the cost of providing a ramp at the porch and minor stone repairs, most notably a step for the chancel door.

[2009]  2009 saw a very rich offering of fundraising entertainments. In March there was another of Angela Barlow’s presentations, ‘Jane Austen & Character: An Actor’s View’. The following month the function room of the Mason’s Arms was the venue for a convivial Folk Evening organised by Caroline Jackson-Houlston. On 6 June there was a choral recital arranged by Sarah Lister featuring the first performance of ‘Jubilate Deo’ by her husband Roger Teichmann, written for the church choir, with a flute partita and cantata by Bach. November saw a recital in the now familiar music and readings format on the theme of Autumn with refreshments provided by Coco Noir. Sarah Lister produced attractive advertising flyers, as she did for so many of the Friends events.

At the AGM Carl Boardman gave an entertaining and informative talk on ‘Oxfordshire Sinners and Villains’, based on his twenty years in the Oxfordshire Record Office.

The second Flower Festival took place on Trinity weekend as in 2007, the theme being ‘A Celebration in Flowers: a Year in Church Life’. Local gardens were open and refreshments were served in the Coach House in association with the friends of Headington Quarry. The whole weekend, including the Trinity Gift Day, raised £6,600. 

[2010] The summer of 2010 saw two contrasting recitals.  In June the close harmony group Women of Note performed a selection of jazz standards by Gershwin, Ker & Hammerstein, and other noted songwriters. The following month a summer concert featured the Holy Trinity choir and the Headington Quartet with Lucy Matheson (soprano), Sally Mears (mezzo-soprano), and Anna Bishop (oboe).

At the AGM Lorna Hicks gave a talk entitled ‘Holy Trinity: Some Stories from the First 150 Years’. The year’s gift day was devoted to the financing of a study exploring the possibilities for extending and re-ordering the church. Two other grants were made during the year: one to cover most of the cost of cleaning the grave of C. S. Lewis and that of Janie Moore, and one to provide the church with a new boiler at a cost of £4200.

[2011]  With no fewer than five entertainments, 2011 was a vintage year. In February Terry Phipps was again called upon by popular demand to give a talk (and dance) on the Headington Morris group in the Mason’s Arms function room. April saw guitarists Gordon Giltrap and Raymond Burley in concert as ‘Double Vision’. The summer concert, which was sold out, was inspired by C. S. Lewis and included a new work by Roger Teichmann ‘Songs of Narnia’. ‘Give Me Your Answer Do’, consisting of dramatic readings featuring literary proposals arranged by Julia Cousins was presented in the Coach House in September, and the same venue featured four local folk musicians in an evening arranged by Tim Stead on 3 December.

At the AGM in May Andy Gosler brought his professional ornithological expertise to bear on ‘Fat and Eggshells: The Private Life of the Great Tit’.  Mike Hill succeeded Julia Cousins as Chair at this meeting. 

In addition to the balance of the building feasibility study, including a detailed survey of the church, the Friends paid for the repair of two gravestones passed by those seeking C. S. Lewis’s resting place. 

[2012] In 2012 a summer Diamond Jubilee choral recital, including the second performance of Roger Teichmann’s ‘Saul Anointed’ was both stirring and financially productive, with standing room only. In September there was a visit by the choir of St Mark’s, Stockholm, and in November the twentieth anniversary of the Kenneth Tickell organ was celebrated in its maker’s presence by a celebrity recital given by Stephen Farr designed to show off the characteristic beauties of the instrument.

At the AGM further expert enlightenment on George Gilbert Scott was provided by Peter Howell of the Victorian Society

The main grant awarded during the year was for the oak noticeboard in the churchyard and the aluminium board on Quarry Road. The repair of the bells was funded using part of a bequest from the late Patrick Martineau. A contribution was also made towards the purchase of a good quality piano for recitals in the Coach House, and a small grant supported Steve Jones’s series of pamphlets drawn from the historical magazines of Holy Trinity.

[2013] A summer concert by the Holy Trinity Choir and friends included two new arrangements by Roger Teichmann: ‘The Light and the Half-Light’ and ‘Toccata for Organ’.

The gift day was relinquished to the PCC this year to tide congregational finances over a difficult period.

The year’s major grant was a contribution towards the surfacing of the Coach House path (mostly funded by the landfill firm WREN) and associated lighting. (Although the lights were sold as ‘anti-vandal’ this proved not to be the case, but fortunately the cable which accounted for most of the expenditure was re-used when high-level lights were eventually installed.) The path was officially opened on Trinity Sunday by Dee Sinclair as one of her first engagements as Lord Mayor of Oxford: Dee also spoke at the AGM. There was also a grant for new signage for the path and the churchyard gates, and for a small marquee initially to be used in an ambitious and memorable festival marking the fiftieth anniversary of C. S. Lewis’s death.

[2014] 2014 began with a January quiz in the Coach House compered by John Payne, with a well-supported raffle. At the AGM Karl Wallendszus spoke on saving energy at home and at Holy Trinity.

The most substantial grant made during the year covered the cost of removing asbestos from the boiler house: this had been the focus for the annual gift day. There were also grants to cover the seeding of the Coach House path verge, the replacement of a bench beside the Coach House in memory of Betty Collins, and the purchase of a wheelchair (to replace one stolen) and a CD player.

The Third Phase: 2015-2023

At the end of 2014, the church building project gained momentum and it was considered prudent for the Friends to step back to allow this initiative to take centre stage, particularly with foreseeable necessary fund raising activities. At the time of the decision it was not anticipated that the complexities of the procedures would pause the Friends fund raising activity for several years and then have this compounded by the COVID-pandemic. Nevertheless the Friends maintained a presence and position to continue to make a number of small grants from their accumulated funds. In 2015 a contribution was made to the installation of solar panels on the house owned by the church in Binswood Place. In 2018 the cost of repairing one of the windows in the west front was covered. In 2020 the Friends paid for the cleaning of the war memorial. In 2022 a grant was made for a new boiler, and in 2023 a final small grant for new external security lights.

At the 2015 AGM it had been agreed that the Friends should ‘make available up to £25,000 towards a major project within the next two years’, and though the timescale was necessarily extended at subsequent AGMs this intention was fulfilled in 2021 when the charity contributed this sum as the major donor for the new lighting scheme. The Vicar, Laura Biron-Scott, headed up a demonstration of the versatility of the scheme after the AGM in a presentation with readings and music on the theme of light, the latter being provided on organ and piano by Rosie Tweddle. The Friends also acted as a vehicle for transferring a personal donation to cover the cost of a complete redecoration of the church.

In 2023, faced with the prospect of several more years fundraising to cover the loan taken out for the building project, and with the impossibility of finding a replacement for Mike Hill as Chair, the Committee regretfully recommended to members that the Friends be dissolved, and this was unanimously approved at an extraordinary general meeting on 23 June.

Trustees and Officers

Ian Alexander (2005–2023; Secretary 2006–2023) 
Anna Bishop (2021–2023)
Shelagh Borden (2009–2018)
John Catterall (2005–2008; Treasurer 2007–2008)     
Emma Chamberlain (2003–2005)
Julia Cousins (2004– 2011; Chair 2006–2011) 
Alan Day (2008–2013)
John Drummond (2003–2023; PCC representative 2003–2007)
Diana Harrison (2005–2011, 2017–2023)
Mike Hill (2009–23; Chair 2011–22)
Sarah Lister (2009–2011)
Susan Lloyd (2003–2012)
Philippa Logan (2018–2021)
Madelaine Morris (2012–2017)
Sally Purbrick (Treasurer, 2008–2023)
Hilary Rollin (2021–2023)
Anne Tarassenko (2021–2023)
Robert Twycross (Chair, 2003–2006)
Val Wells (2011–2017)
Elizabeth Whitwick (2003–2009; Secretary 2003–2006)
Adrian Wood (2013–2015)
Malcolm Woodcock (2003–2008; Treasurer 2003–2007)
Mike Wooldridge (2021–2023)