You could not imagine driving or walking through Lower Sunbury without seeing the beautiful Church of St Mary’s overlooking the river. Immortalised in literature thanks to Charles Dickens, St Mary’s is part of the fabric of our little village and something to be preserved.
It is Grade II* listed and caring for such a building is a complicated and ongoing business of course, not to mention costly! Over the years the Church has needed some major works, so in 1978 an organisation was set up to care for and raise money for it.
The Friends of St Mary’s was established as a charity in 1995 and is set up to raise funds to maintain the fabric of the building and it’s contents and to ensure this much loved landmark and centre of our village life can be kept in good order for future generations. Our Parish Church was built on the site of a Medieval church building in 1752, to designs by Stephen Wright who at the time was Clerk of the Works at Hampton Court Palace. The interior was remodelled by the Victorians between 1857 and 1895, substantial renovation and repairs were carried out in the 1970’s and the tower was restored and secured and the bells re-hung for future generations in the early 2000’s.
The Church contains 17th and 18th century Baroque wall memorials, salvaged from the original building, Arts & Craft stained glass windows, High Victorian décor designed by Samuel Teulon and Scraffito decoration from the 1890’s – the dawning years of the Art Nouveau movement. The next maintenance task will be the cleaning of the paintings of God and the seraphim above and behind the altar. These stunning pieces will be given a new lease of life and colour for the enjoyment of all. But such work is not easily or cheaply undertaken. This is where the Friends of St Mary’s play such a vital role.
The Friends organise talks, music, concerts and plays and during the last 14 years have raised over £100,000, helping to pay for repairs to the tower, roof, bells and drains etc. During 2012 FOSM helped with a donation of £31,000 towards a replacement Nave roof. Importantly, funds are raised through Membership (a minimum of £10 is suggested). The Friends may be lucky enough to receive the odd legacy, and that might be something you could think about yourself if you wish to play a part in preserving this landmark beyond your own years.
On September 9th, during the Heritage weekend, the Church will be open for teas, coffees, ice creams and tours. The Sunbury & Shepperton Local History Society have their display and you will have the chance to visit the bell tower and even have a go at bell ringing.
For more information the website is www.fosmsunbury.org.uk or contact Maggie Mold on 01932 784432.