A Church Heritage Trust

The church of St Mary the Virgin Gayton is supported in the care of the church by a church heritage trust. This trust was created to widen the support for the care of the church beyond the church's congregation to the village as a whole. A survey conducted by the Gayton Parish Council for the 'Parish Plan' had demonstrated that although people in the village did not necessarily attend the church regularly, if at all, they neverthless valued the existance of the church as a building which was worthy of care.

The arrangement has proved to be very successful in Gayton and may be of interest to other churches and the communities in which they are situated.

The Gayton arrangements and how they came about are set out below.

Mrs Anna Fox was closely involved in the creation of the Gayton Church Heritage Trust and is now its chairman. She would be pleased to talk over the way they did things in Gayton with any interested people. Mrs Fox can be contacted, preferably by email, at anna@foxfam.demon.co.uk , or if that is not possible, by telephone on 01604 859444 leaving a message on the answerphone.



Parish Plan Survey and Questionnaire 2003

  • Highlighted the fact that the building is a significant building in the minds of the people living in the village.
  • However, responses in the questionnaire showed a strong reluctance to raise money for upkeep of the building by the village because of the Parish Share that was payable to Peterborough Diocese, which absorbed a disproportionate amount of money in PCC funds.
  • Falling congregation numbers struggling to survive financially.
  • Worry that the building could be closed and be unavailable as an asset in the village. It is the largest indoor space.

Parish Council Initiative

  • Suggested a Steering Group to look at the feasibility of a group that could give support to the PCC: eg Friends of Gayton Church / Facilities Group.
  • Facilities Group set up with the aim of raising money for a servery and w.c. with its own bank account but was not set up as a charity.


  • Parishioners not keen on modernisation as repairs were seen to be more important.
  • Facilities Group saw modernisation as a means of increasing the use of the bulding.
  • Gayton Church Heritage Trust formed to address both the needs of parishioners and the community to undertake repairs and modernisation.
  • Granted charitable status 2005. Adopted standard 'Model Constitution for a Charitable Unincorporated Institution'.
  • Bank account is distinct from all PCC funds and managed by Trustees.
  • Charitable Trust is favoured by grant providers.

Aims of GCHT

  • Increase the use of the building by improving the amenities for the parishioners and people living in Gayton.
  • Preserve it as a facility in the village.
  • Create a venue suitable for regular concerts and events


  • Raise sufficient funds to modernise, preserve, restore and maintain the building.
  • Raise awareness in the village of the need to help maintain the building.
  • Keep the building open for the benefit of the village and the wider community.
  • All money raised is used to sustain the building.


  • After initial conflict of interest by the PCC, the Facilities Group merged with GCHT, with a transfer of funds.
  • GCHT and PCC have a common purpose to preserve the building for all time.
  • PCC, relieved of the burden to fund major repairs, now manage the day to day housekeeping.
  • PCC have delegated responsibility to GCHT to apply for DAC authorisation to carry out work arising from the Quinquennial Report, apply for grants and fundraise.
  • This initiative has proved to be workable.
  • The long overdue repairs to the tower roof and parapet, the weather vane restoration, and the provision of a servery, have all been achieved in a relatively short time.

The Future

  • GCHT is to continue with the modernisation programme and is to raise the profile of the building as a venue for events open to the wider community.
  • The process has been a huge learning curve and has taken nearly seven years.
  • Our experience may be valuable to other villages.
  • Look for opportunities in the county to maximise the use of the building.
  • There may be opportunities to link up with events planned for Cultural Olympiad.
  • Highlight the fact that Northamptonshire has many beautiful churches that need to be recognised as part of our cultural heritage.

Examples of performances

  • Son et Lumiere, Jazz Concerts, South Northants Touring Arts performances for children.
  • The event that did most to raise the profile of the building was in 2006 to celebrate 800 years of the building as a focus for parish life.
    • A weekend of events starting with a Son et Lumiere in the church, which combined a spoken account of architectural / social history of the building by a local historian, Rita Poxon, and a performance by Fiori Muscali. This was directed by Penelope Rapson, who devised a musical programme to follow each chapter of history working through Polyphonic Church Music, and ending with 'Lord Bless You and Keep You' by John Rutter.
    • The lighting was arranged by a sound, staging and audio visual company, 'Fabtronic', based in Northampton.
    • A DVD of the performance was made after the event, an abstract of which may be heard on the Gayton website.


Registered as a Charity - No: 1021632