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Helmdon Historical Articles

The History Of

The Friends Of The Churchyard

Judith Cairns



For many years the churchyard was looked after by two retired men, Reg Bachelor and Frank Jeacock, but eventually they became too old and couldn’t manage it.


Sue Lidgley’s and my husband both died in 1998 and were buried in the churchyard

and this made us more aware of the need for more organised maintenance. In 2000

a meeting was held with John Roberts, Jean Spendlove, Conrad Woolley, Sue

Lidgley and myself. We decided to form The Friends of Helmdon Churchyard. As we

only had an old mower and no funds, Sue wrote to people outside the village who

had relatives buried here to ask them if they would give donations towards the

upkeep and they responded generously. The Parish Council also contributed £50,

which, as they would be required to provide a village burial ground if our graveyard

weren’t here, has over the years risen to £400 per annum. We also receive £80 per

year from the Commonwealth Graves Commission for the maintenance of the four

World War soldiers’ graves. The Hyhos have also given us generous grants and we

have also been given extra grants by the Parish Council.


A separate account was set up within the main PCC account and in 2001 we bought

our first new mower, to be followed by a strimmer and a second mower. Later a

wheeled strimmer was donated by the Parish Council to mow the old part of the



Initially we had a big clean-up day - a very hot day - lasting from 9 am to 3 pm, with

volunteers bringing their own tools and mowers, and subsequently have kept the

churchyard mown and tidy with a small band of volunteers, including Conrad

Woolley, Bill Elkington, Ann Smith, Danny Moody, Hugh Walmsley, Roger Miles,

David Watson, Liz Humphrey, Chris Bazeley, and Tim Wheeler. They come when

they can fit it in.


The person who made the greatest contribution to the upkeep was Rex Jessett who

spent long hours caring for the churchyard as though it was his own garden, and

mending the stone walls.It was a sad day when he had to give up due to ill health.

Teenager George Stubbs gave some valuable help to Rex as part of his Duke of

Edinburgh Silver Award and we now have Jacob Davies helping us towards his Duke

of Edinburgh Bronze Award.


Peter Payne was another volunteer who kept the paths tidy and also, at his own

expense, provided the stones and laid the path leading to the right from the front



Andy Pitt from the old Rectory, now Helmdon House, has also done a lot of mowing

for us, including the lower part of the churchyard and the banks outside our walls.

Sue Lidgley and I are very grateful for the help we get and would welcome anyone

who would like to join the volunteers.


Judy Cairns


The Friends of Helmdon Churchyard


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