The Friends of St James the Great, Thorley

Chairman's Report to the

Annual General Meeting

held on Friday, 13 March 2015

Good evening and thank you all for coming to the 2015 Annual General Meeting of the Friends of St James the Great, Thorley.

The Committee has worked hard on all our behalves over the past year, and I am sure you would like me to pass on your thanks to them.

During the course of that year we were sad to learn of the deaths of four of our members, Albert Camp, John Dobson, Reg Jacobs and Ruby Conridge.

At the start of last year, the total amount at the Friends' disposal for our latest fund-raising project, the purchase and installation of new Church lighting, stood at 15,500. As I reported at last year's Annual General Meeting, this was set to rise to approximately 19,500 on repayment of the loan we had made to the Parochial Church Council to cover the VAT payable for the recent programme of Church restoration. This loan was part of a total grant by the Friends of some 24,000 for such work, the VAT element being reclaimable by the Council through the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme.

I am pleased to report that, as a result of our fund raising during the course of last year, more detail in respect of which will learn from Rosemary during her Treasurer's report, the total at the Friends' disposal, when including the repayment of this loan, had risen to some 29,500 by the start of this year. This is likely to be more than enough to fund the purchase and installation of new Church lighting. However, as a consequence of the move from the use of incandescent to LED lighting, there has been a delay in the selection of a final design. As a relatively new technology, LED lighting brings with it a number of options, and it has proven difficult to determine the most appropriate solution for the Church. Although this has delayed the spending of the funds that we have raised for the lighting, it is right that the necessary time is taken to establish the best way forward. We are hopeful that a final decision will be made shortly.

The matter of our next project has already been raised with the Parochial Church Council and, as you will see from the agenda, will be the subject of a discussion later on this evening.

Our main fundraising event during the last year was, as usual, our annual Festival of Flowers and Music held over the August Bank Holiday weekend. Visitors to the 2014 Festival were able to view flower arrangements on the theme of Saints - Familiar and Unfamiliar. They were also treated to a number musical moments and group singing throughout the Festival, and had an opportunity each day to receive prayer for healing. Together with a Craft Fair on all three days of the Festival, a Mini Fete on the Monday, and a chance for visitors to sit and chat over refreshments, the Festival was once again a great success, both as a significant outreach opportunity and also financially. I will leave the latter to Rosemary to address in her report.

To mark last year's 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, the Friends put together a display about the men of Thorley who served in that war. It was based on the contents of a small red notebook compiled by the Revd John Edward Ingleby Procter, the Rector of Thorley at the time, in which he painstakingly recorded details of the 103 servicemen from the parish who answered the call to arms. The display included transcriptions of the entries in this notebook matched with photographs of 50 of the servicemen that had been found by a relative of two of them in the Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies Centre. It also featured extracts from the Herts and Essex Observer describing life at the front and the feelings of families back home in Thorley that had been compiled by Leslie Parker whilst she was working on a research project for Bishop's Stortford Museum. Once the necessary business of this Annual General Meeting has been completed, you'll have the opportunity to learn far more about Thorley in the Great War during a short presentation by Bill Hardy before our evening concludes with a bring-and-share buffet. Returning to the matter of the display itself, it first went on view in the Church during Open Churches Sunday in June of last year, and was then in the Emmaus Centre throughout the Festival, when a commemorative booklet produced for the Friends by my wife, Maureen, also went on sale. Maureen wrote an article about the notebook and the display that was published in the Herts and Essex Observer in the run up to the Festival and through which we gained significant publicity for it. It was pleasing that we were approached by number of Festival attendees who said that they had come specifically to view the display and learn more about individual servicemen to whom they were related. More biographical information came to light as a result of these viewings, which we plan to include in a second edition of the booklet.

After a further airing in the Church on Remembrance Sunday, the display subsequently moved to Bishop's Stortford Library from where it is destined for Bishop's Stortford Museum.

The Friends other fund raising activities during the course of the past year were a sale of plants in May, an Autumn Craft Fair in November, and our sale of Sunday afternoon teas from the Church Room during the summer months. Most recently we held another very successful and most enjoyable Quiz Evening in February of this year. A particularly big thank you is due to Pam and Steve Robertson for once again setting the questions for the Quiz and overseeing the marking, and to Mike Trippick for his sterling performance as Quiz Master. A great time was had by all.

The Friends will once again be offering Sunday Afternoon Teas from the Church Room this year during the months of June, July and August. The Committee would also like to be able to offer Teas during the months of May and September, as has been the case in previous years. However, this will only be possible if individuals come forward to take overall responsibility for these months. If you are willing to do so for either of May or September, please let me or one of the other Committee members know. Don't worry if you haven't been involved with the Teas before, as training will be provided.

The Friends' website continued to attract attention during the course of the year. Shortly after last year's Annual General Meeting, the From the Archives section was updated to include articles relating to Thorley that appeared in the Herts and Essex Observer between 1910 and 1919 that had been transcribed by Leslie Parker whilst working on the research project that I mentioned previously. Last September our section on early twentieth century postcards with a Thorley connection was updated to include details of one from one of the servicemen featured in Canon Procter's notebook that is now in the possession of one of his relatives and who had drawn it to the attention of Bill Hardy. Earlier this year Bill was also contacted by a relation of the Clark and Day families of Thorley. This contact has 22 Edwardian postcards that were originally part of a collection that was made by Tom Clark of Thorley who was born in 1901. Images of the messages on these cards have now been added to our site. Another recent addition has been what are known as 'photo spheres' of the churchyard. These panoramic photographs enable one to view the churchyard through a full 360 degrees of azimuth, and through all elevations from the ground through to the zenith. If you have not already done so, do please take a look at these new additions.

I would like to end my Report by thanking Rosemary, our Treasurer, and Margaret, our Vice Chairman and indeed all the members of the Committee, for their help and support during the past year. On behalf of the Committee and myself I would also like to thank you for the support you have given us.

Unless there are any questions at this stage, I will hand over to Rosemary for her Treasurer's report. Thank you very much.

Philip Hargrave
13 March 2015

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