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The Lee Newsletter
April 2015
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newlsettersThe story of a church: a postscript
By Charlotte Reynolds

Following last month’s article by Diana Taylor about my talk on the history of the Church of St John the Baptist, and the influence of the Liberty family on the creation of its interior, perhaps I could just add a few thoughts of my own.

It was a huge privilege to be asked to present the talk and I thoroughly enjoyed digging around in the county archives and winkling information and stories out of local residents!

The talk was primarily a fund-raiser to help boost the coffers of the church building and fabric maintenance fund – in particular the £6,000 cost of repairing the organ, which having been played week-in and week-out at every church event for nearly 100 years, is showing severe signs of wear and tear.

On the evening I was therefore absolutely delighted to receive on behalf of the PCC an extremely generous donation from Mrs Liz Stewart-Liberty by way of a cheque for £5,000. This fantastic amount, combined with other generous donations and bequests and the money raised from the sale of the tickets, means that we have covered the cost of the repair bill – a stunning achievement.

As Mrs Stewart Liberty very wittily said on the night, her donation was to act as an “organ transplant” for the continuation of our enjoyment of church music for the next 100 years.

It was absolutely fitting that a member of the Liberty family should continue the fine tradition of their patronage and support of the village church. It was, after all, Sir Arthur Liberty who in 1910 first gave money to create the church and its stunning interior as we know it today. Mrs Stewart-Liberty, her husband and her parents-in-law, Ivor and Evelyn Stewart-Liberty, have maintained close supportive links to the church ever since, not only financially but also practically and as regular worshippers.

Indeed Mrs Stewart-Liberty fondly remembers being welcomed to The Lee as a new bride by her mother–in–law with the proviso that she ‘got stuck in’ to village and church life, starting with church cleaning (including the brass!) and flower arranging on alternate weeks!

Mrs Stewart-Liberty touched on this anecdote and other amusing family stories in her kind introduction to the talk. It was a perfect scene-setter for what followed. So much of my research unearthed wonderful family stories, interesting architectural and design facts and exciting discoveries about the church, of which I had no idea!

After some prompting, and to make much better use of Pippa Hart’s stunning photographs of the church, we plan to publish an illustrated version of the talk with an introduction by Mrs Stewart-Liberty, which we hope will be available in the autumn.


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