At the heart of the community in Hartfield for many centuries has been the church.
The community has met together in friendship, fellowship, learning, prayer and worship. In happy times. In sad times. When we mark major points in our lives and in our day-by-day lives the church community has been there.
The community has felt the need for a building in which they could come together for those events. Originally it was in a wooden building and that was probably over a thousand years ago. In the fourteenth century the building was upgraded to a stone structure and since then every 100 years or so the community has added to and changed the building to suit the needs of the community at that time.
Over the centuries the community of Hartfield has invested more in this church building than in any other facility in the parish. I would emphasise that it was the community that made that investment.
It is now about 150 years since the last major period of community investment in the church building.
The way we live our lives has changed dramatically over that 150 years.
It has now fallen to this generation to consider how the needs and expectation of our community can be best met by the church building here in Hartfield. We are challenged by this responsibility.
We are considering making changes that hopefully will stand for decades if not centuries to come. Therefore it is right that we should take time and care over these proposals.
We have been working on them for over ten years.
Some of the needs have been obvious, such a toilet within the building. But the solution has not been simple. Similarly the need for some form of kitchen facilities. These go to the heart of the church building being a place where the people of Hartfield, and their families and friends, come together. When coming into a community building these are the minimum expectations that people have of the facilities. In the same way there is an expectation that the building should have adequate heating.
Others needs that we have identified are more obvious to those that use the building on a day-by-day week by week basis. Such as the need of a space suitable for a small group meeting together. For a space that can be used by children. For a good audio-visual system. For improved lighting for concerts and other one-off events. For improved storage.
For a space that can be used flexibly. By the congregation, reflecting the wide variety of different forms of worship that are now common in the Church of England, particularly in growing and vibrant church communities. That can be used for weddings and funerals.
For a space that can be used by the village school. The church is the only place in the village that all the pupils and their relatives and friends can come together. The school uses the building for a weekly whole school act of worship. For end of term services. For major productions such as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian.
By the wider village for such events as The Big Draw, Storyfest, concerts by the Hartfield Singers and others. For events such as the Community Play.
I am sure that there are other uses that I have missed. Also potential uses that this space could be used for. If you know of examples that we have missed or potential uses that you think this space can be used for, please let us know.
This building is truly at the heart of the community here in Hartfield. The church should be a place where the community comes together. We will see this very vividly over the coming month with the many hundreds of people that will come into this building during Advent and Christmas.
This building is also probably the oldest in the village. As such it is an important tourist destination and is part of the wider appeal that the village has to visitors from near and far. As such it needs to be preserved and maintained.
At the same time this building should also reflects our love, reverence and thanksgiving to God.
This is quite a challenge to be satisfied in one medieval building. May that it why it has taken so much time and thought to come forward with plans for a major improvement in facilities, so that this building can continue to be at the heart of the community.
We would very much welcome your comments on the plans. Headlines and links with information are below:
In the south east corner of the tower will be a toilet.
A new mezzanine room will be created in the tower with access from a staircase running up the north wall of the tower.
There will be a new vestibule created just inside the West Door. There will also be storage cupboards under the stairs and either side of the vestibule.
In the north east corner of the nave will be basic kitchen facilities that will be hidden in cupboards. There will then be further storage space running about two thirds of the way along the north wall of the nave. To the point where the wall steps in.
In the south west corner of the nave a children’s are will be created, and also a storage area immediately behind the South Door when it is open. This area will also provide notice boards and cupboard spaces.
The heating will be improved and a new boiler will be fitted, replacing one that we think is thirty plus years old.
We will also improve the lighting and install modern audio-visual facilities that with be much less intrusive and more effective than the arrangements we currently have.
We will also improve the lighting along the paths in the churchyard.
In about three months, following community consultations of which this is the first stage, we aim to apply for the preliminary stage of the Church of England’s equivalent of planning permission. Hopefully this will be followed later in the year by an application for the full permission for this work to be carried out. But getting permission for the work is just the next stage in the process.
As you will see there is a great deal of work need to bring these plans to fruition. It will also cost a considerable amount. Based on a professional report from a quantity surveyor using the drawings and specifications that have been prepared by our architect, we estimate that the cost will be about £0.5 million.
We hope to receive support from various grant making bodies, as well as raising money locally. So far the community has invested nearly [£100,000] to help improve the ability of this building to meet the needs that we now place upon it.
To be successful in our grant applications and important element is for us to show that this building is used by the community and that we have the community support for our plans. So as you go round and look at the displays, please do make comments. Please use the comment cards. Please let us know if we have missed things, if we could do things in a better way and whether you support the plans as prepared.
If we want a vibrant community, it is appropriate that we should be ambitious. We really do want this building to be the heart for the community.