From time to time, we like to shine the spotlight on a particular Herefordshire church and invite a representative of that church ‘into the pulpit’ to speak to us. In our first interview, we talk mole invasions, Pride and Prejudice and the need for peaceful reflection with John Caiger of Stoke Lacy church (pictured third from the left below)…

John Caiger Stoke Lacy

Tell us a bit about your relationship with Stoke Lacy, John.

My wife Mary and I have had our home in Stoke Lacy for over 50 years and we live only 100 yards from our splendid church.  For the first thirty years I was only in the village for short periods as my work took me overseas, however when I came to live full time in the village it did not take long for the Vicar to get me involved in Church affairs.  This resulted in my becoming Treasurer for 20 years and Church Warden for 10 years.  The Church became a very much part of our lives.  One son was married here in 1991 and our grandchildren baptised.

What work is being done to the church at the moment, or needs to be done?

There is always work to be done! Aside from the constant cleaning up after good souls have come in with not so good (muddy) shoes, this is just a short list of what I would call routine repairs needed at this time: Broken stained glass window, flagpole in need of repair, chimney stack damaged in gale last winter, leak in steeple, stone wall tablets in need of clean and minor repair, update vicars names (now 15 years out of date), replace donations box, repaint walls after pew moves, tackle mole invasion…

On top of this we are now about to embark on phase two of our modernisation of the church by installing heating and lighting chandeliers. This is at a cost of £22,000 and follows on from having just upgraded our electricity supply at a cost of £11,000.

We’re also planning phase three of our modernisation programme, which is the design and manufacture of a new glass decorative panel to go above the kitchen. This should make Stoke Lacy a bit of a tourist attraction and we expect, when completed, that footfall to the church will increase significantly.

What sort of a grant did you receive from HHCT and where did the idea come from?

We have just received a fantastic grant of £10,000 from HHCT towards the cost of the new heating. We could not have done this work without the grant. This is the second grant from HHCT that Stoke Lacy church has had. The first was for £1,000 for a new kitchen and loo 10 years ago. What would we do without HHCT?

Aside from this church, what’s your favourite building in the county and why?

My favourite building in the county is The Old Rectory in Stoke Lacy. This was my home for 50 years but I now live in the Coach House. The Rectory was the home of the Morgan Motor family who designed and built the first car there in 1905.

If the church could feature in a film of your choice, what sort of film would it be?

How about a remake of Pride and Prejudice? We could film the final scene at the church, but would have to be careful that the bride and groom didn’t trip over the mole hills as they came down the church path!   Or possibly the final scene of Winston Churchill’s life. He was buried in a very similar churchyard to ours. This would put us on the map in a big way. Editor’s note: Aspiring film makers keen to make this a reality, please visit our Contact page.

Why do you think our historic church buildings are important in the modern world?

How boring are the majority of modern buildings? Our historic buildings remind us of our past and I frequently stand and stare at old buildings, some nearly a thousand years old, and wonder at the dedication of those who built them without the use of steel scaffolding and plans drawn on parchment. Just how did they do it?

When you’re not being interviewed for HHCT, what do you do to relax?

Dig the garden and worry about how we are to raise the cash to keep our splendid church in good order…

In the delicate beauty of a finial, the awesome engineering of a keystone, or the simple symmetry of a quatrefoil, we can find quiet amid the turmoil of our daily lives. What aspect of the church property brings you the most peace or pleasure?

What a difficult question to answer. There is something about the atmosphere of a church, which makes it very different to any other form of building. Our Norman arch is a splendid piece of construction and architecture. If one leans against it, one can feel the strength that is built into it. Close your eyes and one can almost see the workmen 900 years ago chiselling the stone. Or perhaps the stained glass window commemorating the three years of life of a Morgan child, or the brass tablet that tells of a young Captain Kempson (son of the architect John Kempson) who died at sea of dysentery – these are the architectural features that bring emotion and life to a building, as one thinks of the tears that would have been shed on their behalf.

There are many items in a church that make one think about the past, but sometimes thoughts turn to what will come in the future.

However, if I stand silently I can sense the happiness and the sorrow that this church has seen. Weddings and funerals, and simple day to day events over the many years during which this building has been used as a meeting place for villagers just like myself. I have been coming to this church for nearly sixty years and have witnessed a lot within its boundaries – just think what the church would say if it could talk!

I find that a church exudes longevity, and above all a feeling of peace. And don’t we need this now?

Indeed we do, John. You can step out of the pulpit now. Thank you for taking the time to speak to HHCT.

To ensure that the Stoke Lacy modernisation continues to progress uninhibited, join us or alternatively you can make a one-off donation or fundraise for us via Just Giving. Click here for more info.

Image source: Worcester News

In the pulpit with… John Caiger, Stoke Lacy Church
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Herefordshire Historic Churches Trust