Early History of Friends of St Mary's (FOSM)
Founded by Jane Cole in 1993 to raise money towards the fabric of St Mary's Church. This page describes FOSM upto 2009.
Page created by Peter Hill from information supplied by Jane Cole in 2009
On the 8th of May 1993, the Friends of St Mary’s had its inauguration in St Mary’s Church.
‘Friends of churches and cathedrals had been setting up all over the country for some time. So why shouldn’t St Mary’s have its Friends?’ said Jane Cole. It seemed a good idea. Some Friends were independent, having their own charity number, others were affiliated to their church…the system which was chosen by the Steering Committee at that time as it seemed that this affiliation might cut down the amount of work involved!
The Initial Committee, Aims and Objects
The initial Steering Committee consisted of: Jane Cole, Elisabeth Baines, Joan Barratt, Anthony Faulkner, Delia Schafle, Bill Burgess, Geoffrey Smerdon, and Olive Whaley. And FOSM soon became the acronym for the Friends of St Mary’s, not to be confused with another FOSM used in the navy for Flag Officer Submarines!
A Constitution was drawn up, based on a selection of friends’ constitutions … Tendring Church was very helpful in providing information on procedure and what was involved. The important part of the constitution read:
Aim: To ensure that St Mary’s Church shall be a feature of the village for future generations.
Objects: To aid the Parochial Church Council to improve, maintain, repair, renew and preserve the building, fabric, fixtures, fittings, furniture and equipment of St Mary’s Church for the benefit of the public.
FOSM continues to be run by a committee and the President is the Rector of the Parish. This post was initially held by the Rev David Thomas until he retired from St Mary’s in 2009 to take up another parish elsewhere in Essex. The current President is the Rev Erwin Lammens who was appointed Rector in 2010.
Newsletters and FOSM Designs
The first FOSM newsletter came out in July 1994. Len and Anne Horner hosted a barbecue and the Friends of St Mary’s was well and truly launched.
Hilary Wadley designed a tea towel for our first Wivenhoe Design. We later took up the offer of Countryside Art to send in local photos and they would do our designs at a very reasonable cost. This resulted in a lot of camera work and journeys to the surrounding areas, especially for the Colne Estuary design which Gill Strudwick was involved with. And Barry Woodcock designed the logo.
In the early days, we sold 2,000 Christmas cards a year when Susannah Bradley… who is sadly missed… was doing her attractive quay designs. And don’t forget the Wivenhoe jig-saw puzzle or the coasters from photographs of the heads in the roof above us, precariously taken on a moveable tower by Marcel Glover. In 2007 Reg Marks produced a Wivenhoe Calendar and new items were regularly added.
Jane Cole said: “The Wivenhoe Designs had been one of our successes and gross sales were in the region of £2,000 a year in those early days. It was also a fun thing to do, choosing items to sell which you haven’t had to fork out for yourself! Enid Heslop, Maureen Smith and Carol Mitchell ran the designs successfully for several years and they sold them not only at some outlets in the town but at every possible event in the town and at St Mary’s”.
Membership and Fund-raising Events
As regards membership, this was run by Elisabeth Baines. FOSM started off with 31 households and then went up to over 100 households. But due to the age of the membership numbers later dropped slightly. With increasing population numbers from all the new houses in Wivenhoe, FOSM hoped the newcomers would see the importance of keeping the church building in good order, and join FOSM.
By the third newsletter in 1994, FOSM had started to give funds to the Church…£400 to roof repairs, £200 towards the tower clock restoration and £200 towards the heating system.
In 1994 FOSM also started opening the Church for visitors on summer Saturday mornings and afternoons. Organisations, such as the Wivenhoe Players and Wivenhoe Society were encouraged to take up a slot and run their own event in the Church or churchyard. It was decided, a few years later, to pass this task to St Mary’s.
FOSM assisted with the Miracle Plays in 1995, the Tower Appeal in 1997 and the Wivenhoe Festival in 1998.
In December 1996 the FOSM newsletter turned into FOSM News which co-incided with Adrienne Woods’ appeal for the restoration of the church bells, and the filming of Plotlands, later called Flatby, a television soap based in Wivenhoe.
Watercolour Challenge was another innovation of FOSM’s. Bill and Enid Heslop have been running this since it began in 1998 with great success but 2009 would be its last, to be followed by an art exhibition and sale in subsequent years.
Church Guide and FOSM News
In 1999 FOSM published the Church Guide which can be found at the back of the Church. David Clarke, formerly a churchwarden and curator of Colchester Castle museum, provided the text, Sue Murray and Marcel Glover the photographs, Ann Dowden the drawings of the brasses and Jane Cole set out the guide on her computer, and Palladian Press published it. We pipped at the post Janet, then vicar of the Archers, receiving our copies of the Guide one day before they received theirs, Jane remembers! A year later the Guide was shortlisted for an Essex Book award.
In September 1999, FOSM News became Wivenhoe News and here lies another tale of success or ‘can of worms’, whichever you prefer. The first News had 12 pages but contained the same sort of mix as the much later 40 pages from 2006. The editorial team was Jane Cole, Tom Roberts, Peter Kennedy, and Sue Thomas. We did a 700 print run and distributed them to 5 outlets. FOSM members got a free copy delivered. Harvey Lyon helped with the design. In 2009 Peter Kennedy took over as editor in chief with Jane Cole, Tom Roberts and Adele Paterson on advertisements. The distribution and collection from outlets involved Phyllida Joel, John and Anne Williams, Carol Mitchell, Gill Sleightholm, Deirdre Gill, Jane Stanway and Sue Thomas. Wivenhoe News won a merit award at the Essex Life community magazine awards, for which there were 90 entries – see report of this award here. A copy of each issue goes to the British Library.
The FOSM slot on the rota for church cleaning was run for 16 years by Delia Schafle with the help of Doreen Abbott, Bert Thake and others.
Attempts to have discussions with other friends of churches failed. Jane said: “At a joint evensong here only one person turned up from the other church because of a last minute clash of events. We did not pursue this!”
Funds raised had been an average of £3,000 each year, and by this year of 2009, FOSM will have given £40,000 to St Mary’s Church since FOSM began in 1993. The list of items is too long to include here but ranges from regular payments for electricity for floodlighting to major contributions for the tower restoration, the sound and loop system, the removal of pews, and expenses for repairs to the buttresses, guttering, windows, and the organ bellows. Some of FOSM projects have a memorable history, such as the cleaning of the emblem on the front of the north porch, and the pew cushions.
Not only the subscriptions, donations, events, coffee mornings, lunches, teas, Watercolour challenge, the sale of Wivenhoe News and the Designs, but the Co-op dividend card scheme, run by Maureen Smith, whereby you give the dividend on your Co-op shopping to FOSM, also helped towards our income.
In 2008, then Treasurer, Reg Marks, was very pleased to announce that donations included a legacy of £21,371.19 from the estate of Mrs Dorothy Moss.
Change of Chairman
In 2004, Jane Cole stepped down as Chairman, some 11 years after being the person who successfully persuaded everyone that St Mary’s should have its own ‘Friends’. And what a good idea it turned out to be although this idea was only successful because of the huge amount of work put in by Jane and the FOSM team.
Although she stepped down from the Chairman role, Jane remained on the FOSM Committee to continue her tremendous work in producing Wivenhoe News. The Committee were producing 700 copies of this fantastic journal each quarter, a great tribute to Jane. To read more about the history of Wivenhoe News, click here.
The other good news from the FOSM AGM held on 15th May 2004 was that Gill Strudwick volunteered to become Chairman, taking over from Jane Cole. Gill Strudwick, said at the time: “Jane has done a magnificent job since starting Friends of St. Mary’s, and raised together with her team an incredible amount of money for various projects in and around the Church.”
Enid Heslop, Elizabeth Baines Maureen Smith and a few other people on the committee have been running FOSM since Gill Strudwick had to resign so soon after taking over from Jane Cole as she and her husband decided to move to the Lake District.
Alan Massey took over as Chairman for a few years until poor health forced him to retire. In 2015, Cllr Frances Richards took over as Chairman and has given FOSM a positive future.
FOSM continues to raise a substantial amount of money each year for the fabric of St Mary’s Church building. Many of the names of people who joined FOSM in its early days are no longer with us, but their efforts to help establish this worthwhile organisation is, and always will be, valued.
This text is based on a document written by Jane Cole in 2009 and edited by Peter Hill in August 2016