The Friends of St James the Great, Thorley

Chairman's Report to the

Annual General Meeting

held on Friday, 17 March 2006

Thank you all for coming this evening and for your support throughout the year.

The Committee has worked hard on our behalf and I am sure you would like me to pass on your thanks to them.

We were sad to learn of the death of two of our longstanding members during the year, Eva Ashwell and Win Mitchley.

The Friends' key events during 2005 were the provision of Sunday afternoon teas in the Church Room from the first Sunday after Easter until the end of British Summer Time, the Festival of Flowers and Music over the August Bank Holiday weekend and the Quiz Evening in October. Rosemary will give full details of the financial aspects of these events in her report.

We were indebted to Nigel Rixson for taking over from Max Streets and, with a small team of helpers, ensuring the orderly appearance of the Churchyard during the year.

The theme for the 2005 Festival was 'Favourite Hymns', with the flower arrangements reflecting hymns chosen by members of the Church family. The Festival had as its objective the funding of the work on the St James' Church building detailed in the most recent Quinquennial Report. It proved to be the most successful Festival to date, both from the point of view of the number of visitors attending and the money raised, the latter amounting to well over 4,000. On the Sunday evening of the Festival Weekend Bob led a 'Festival Songs of Praise', during which a selection of the featured hymns were sung and a number of the arrangers explained why their hymn meant so much to them. Bob also brought the Festival to an appropriate close with a short act of worship on the Monday evening.

The Festival and Sunday afternoon teas, as well as being important events from the point of view of fundraising, also offered significant outreach opportunities.

John Loadman hosted another successful and enjoyable Quiz Evening in October. Our fundraising year was then brought to a close by a raffle organised on out behalf by the Holy Sew 'N' Sews which had as its first prize a king size patchwork quilt that they had made. We very much appreciated this and the other support given to the Friends by the Holy Sew 'n' Sews during the year.

During the 'Any other Business' agenda item of last year's Friends' AGM, the question was raised as to the potential liability of the Friends to litigation should an incident occur at one of our events. It was suggested that the Friends should seek indemnity from the Parochial Church Council to ensure that the Committee and volunteers would not become personally liable under such circumstances. If this were not to be forthcoming, it was felt that the Friends should seek its own insurance cover. After protracted discussions with Ecclesiastical Insurance, I am pleased to report that the Friends now has appropriate public liability and product liability insurance in place.

During the year an updated version of our Churchyard database was launched on our website. As well as now detailing all marked interments as of August 2005, the database now also includes all unmarked interments as of that date for which there are known locations and the details have been confirmed from the burial registers, and all interments of unknown location recorded in the register covering the period 1925-1992.

The Friends' website continues to attract much interest from around the world. We were able to help the churchwarden of St John the Baptist, Wolverley, Worcestershire who was seeking advice on how to construct a searchable database of the monumental inscriptions in his churchyard.

As a result of Bill Hardy's 'From the Archives' articles we learnt during the year that Thorley has a direct connection with the leading French general of the First World War and also with the tradition of oranges and lemons at St. Clement Danes church in the Strand.

We also received a 'thank you' from Jonathan Raper, a descendant of the parents of Matthew Raper who was a distinguished scientist and Lord of the Manor of Thorley in the eighteenth century. He knew that Matthew's nephew, George Raper, had sailed to Australia aboard HMS Sirius, the flagsip of the First Fleet which set out from England to establish the first European colony in New South Wales. He also knew that a number of his paintings and maps are to be found in the Natural History Museum in London as well as in Canberra and Sydney. He had often been asked what influence George could possibly have had to be included on the voyage, but knew of none apart from the fact that his parents were wealthy. From Bill's article on our website the influence of George's Uncle Matthew was now clear and he was keen to find out more about him. We were also able to assist a coin and medal consultant who was seeking details about a medal that carried a presentation inscription from Moses Raper, Matthew's uncle, to his nephew William, on the latter's first birthday in 1710.

Bill and I also responded to a plea from Australia to have another attempt at deciphering the inscription on the cover-stone of the grave of Robert Flack who died in 1781. Unfortunately the years of weathering have taken their toll and, despite Bill's and my best efforts just before Christmas, we were unable to decipher any more than had already been published on our website. Nevertheless we were able to send our enquirer some pictures of the stone and he and his wife have promised to visit St James next time they are in England.

The total money raised by the Friends since its foundation in 1983 has now passed the 100,000 mark. In addition to the 3,500 earmarked for the redecoration of the Church building, the amount committed to the Parochial Church Council for the Quinquennial repairs has been increased to 25,000.

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 now hand over to Rosemary for the Treasurer's report.

Philip Hargrave
17 March 2006

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