Category Archives: Latest News

Was our church tower once used as a lighthouse for Norman sailors?

The Rector Sam Norton recently came across a fascinating article by church archaeologist Daniel Secker following an extensive study of West Mersea Parish Church.

From the conclusion: “The west tower of St Peter’s church is perhaps the oldest structure in England to be commissioned by Norman patrons, being potentially as old as c.1042… It is possible the tower functioned as a lighthouse to guide Norman mariners to what was then an unfamiliar place… West Mersea is potentially the oldest standing church in Essex bar Bradwell and one of the earliest in England.” (extract from “The Minster Church of SS Peter and Paul, West Mersea, Essex: Structure, Settlement and Landscape” pub Daniel Secker B.A 2014)

The article also contains the plan shown below which shows the many different periods during which construction of the church took place.

Plan showing the construction periods of West Mersea Parish Church – photo by kind permission of Daniel Secker B.A. Church Archaeologist.

The full article may be viewed/downloaded here: (caution large file!)
More of Mr. Secker’s work can be found on his website here:

AGM & Projects Update

Annual General Meeting 21st November 2016
After a worrying few weeks during which there were fears the group might have to fold because of our difficulty in finding people to fill some key posts on our committee, we were very grateful that following our recent appeal for help we have now been able to fill all three vacant positions. At our Annual General Meeting on 21st November members of the Friends were therefore delighted to confirm the election of our three new committee members: Donna Hadsley-Chaplin as Honorary Treasurer, David McMullen as Honorary Secretary and Chris Kirkman as Administrator.

Chairman of The Friends, John May, opened the meeting by thanking members for their continued support and the organisers of our various fundraising events for all their hard work. He also thanked members of The Breakfast Club organised by JK May Family Funeral Service for making some generous donations to the Friends. He gave special thanks to Gill Laver for stepping into the role of Administrator and doing such a sterling job and also thanked the departing Treasurer Richard Taylor and Secretary Sara Robinson, retiring after their five year service, for their dedication and hard work. He noted our good fortune in the offers of help received following our recent appeal in the press for volunteers to fill their posts. Finally he announced a slightly slimmed down programme of fundraising events for 2017 to include a summer concert and two Christmas concerts.

Retiring Treasurer, Richard Taylor, presented the charity’s accounts which showed a surplus of £13,634 for the financial year to 30th June 2016, this figure comprising income from members’ subscriptions, receipts from fundraising events, other donations and £3,274 derived from a backdated claim for Gift Aid. This brings the total raised by The Friends since their formation to nearly £65,000 of which nearly £56,000 has been spent or committed to the maintenance of this fine old building. The number of members now stands at around 200.

Friends’ funded projects update
Since our last AGM, funds from The Friends have been used to pay for two major projects: the installation of ‘low energy’ and event lighting – completed October 2015 at a cost of £3654 and the construction of a new tower access ladder and safety improvements – completed November 2015 at a cost of £13,223. In addition we have been able to pledge £20,000 towards the cost of the internal redecoration of the church. This work which is expected to cost over £30,000 is planned to start around Easter next year after a delayed start due to contractor delays and compounded by regulations preventing the disturbance of the church bats during their hibernation period!

AGM – 21st November 2016 at 7.30 pm – APPLICANTS FOR COMMITTEE ROLES

Further to recent worries about filling vacant posts on our committee, we are delighted to publish the names of people who have come forward to offer their services to The Friends and thereby helped avoid the threat of closure. We are very grateful for their help.

AGM – 21st November 2016 at 7.30 pm

Honorary Treasurer: Donna Hadsley-Chaplin
Proposed by Richard Taylor and seconded by John May

Honorary Secretary: David McMullen
Proposed by Lizzie Dumas and seconded by Richard Taylor

Administrator: Chris Kirkman
Proposed by Gill Laver and seconded by Peter Duerden

Mike Hatchard – Charity Cycle Ride from John O’Groats to Lands End – Update

In an earlier news item we featured the charity bike ride being undertaken by Mike Hatchard from John ‘O Groats to Lands End towing a piano! ( Mike entertained us in October last year with a witty and accomplished one-man musical show (

He writes to tell us he has now completed his journey from Land’s End to John O’Groats (via Kent) and managed to tow his electric piano with him all the way. During the journey he has performed over fifty concerts in a variety of venues ranging from theatres to pubs, churches to village halls, bookshops to art galleries, village greens to beaches and even a wineshop.

As a result of his self-described “slightly insane” venture so far about seven thousand pounds has been raised for BBC Children in Need – and donations are still coming in.

If you would like to read more about his journey or make a donation you can visit his Facebook page here:

Some good news!…

First of all we are glad to say that, following our appeal to members and the publicity given to our problems in the press, we are now confident that we will be able to fill all three vacant posts on our committee at our next AGM on 21st November (7.30 pm in West Mersea Parish Church Hall). This means we can continue with our fundraising and help to support the Parochial Church Council in their work in ensuring the preservation of this lovely building for the foreseeable future.

In other news we will no longer be manning the Friends’ office at the Parish Church on Thursdays. We have provided this facility since The Friends were first formed but since it is rarely visited by members or general enquirers we have decided it is now time to discontinue the facility. However, the Church administrators have said The Friends are welcome to continue to use its facilities for photocopying etc, whenever the need arises.

Clocks and Bells

I recently discovered two interesting articles about the church bells and the church clock written by John Talbot and with his permission I have included them in the “Objects and Curiosities” section of our website. You can view them by selecting the ‘Objects and Curiosities’ tab on the Main Menu, or click here. Amongst many other things John Talbot is the Church Officer responsible for the church bells and clock. He adjusts the clock from time to time when necessary and also occasionally plays the church bells on special occasions. I am sure you will find his articles an interesting read.

Can you help?

The Friends of West Mersea Parish Church, which has now been raising funds for over 5 years to help the PCC with the preservation of this ancient building, is in danger of dissolution if it fails to recruit new people to take on important roles in its committee.

It needs to find people to take on the roles of Treasurer, Secretary and Administrator which have become vacant as a result of Charity Commission rules which prevent the current occupiers of these posts from serving more than a 5-year term.

john-mayJohn May, former Mayor of West Mersea and our group’s Chairman, writes:

It would be very difficult, if not impossible, to continue operating without these roles being filled at our AGM on 21st November, 2016.

Our Parish Church of St. Peter and St. Paul has been at the centre of the community for over 900 years. Its architectural and historical importance has been recognised by English Heritage who has deemed the church a Grade 1 listed building for many years.

Since our formation in 2011 we have raised over £60,000 from subscriptions and fund-raising events and have been able to sponsor over £36,000 worth of essential maintenance and improvement works with a further £20,000 committed to major redecoration of the church interior due to commence next Spring. We have also produced many wonderful musical and other events which have been a major addition to the cultural richness of our local community as well as revealing the interior of this lovely building to some people for the very first time.

It would be a terrible shame for the charity to collapse after over five years of fundraising. Whilst we have got to the point where the church is in reasonable repair there will always be a need for general maintenance and the possibility of a major project in the future.

None of these roles are onerous or particularly time consuming and retiring officers are happy to support newcomers.”

If anyone would like to offer to fill one of these vacant positions or would like further information they can contact John May on 01206 382799 or by email at


Honorary officer – Secretary

  • The role as secretary involves taking the minutes at committee meetings, typing them up and distributing them to the committee members by email.
  • Prepare the agenda for the meetings after consultation with the Chairman and other committee members by email.
  • Arrange the venue for the meeting, usually the Parish Hall.
  • Occasionally write letters of thanks after events or if we receive a significant donation. We have between 3 and 4 meetings per year plus an AGM.
  • Estimated time commitment per meeting for the role is approximately 5 hours – 1 hour preparing agenda and notifying committee members, 2 hours at the meeting, 2 hours typing minutes and distribution. The time commitment in a year is approximately 25 hours.
  • Mobile Phone minder (hardly ever rings).

Responsibilities of Hon Treasurer

  • Bank cash receipts from subscriptions, donations, events and other sources.
  • Maintain cash float for events.
  • Settle payments to performers, suppliers and contractors for goods and services supplied.
  • Reimburse committee members for out of pocket expenses.
  • Make capital payments as approved by Committee to Parish Church Council or direct to contractors.
  • Monitor all receipts and expenditure and reconcile against Bank Statement.
  • Monitor Barclaycard payments for supplies.
  • Make arrangements for investment of any monies not immediately required. * (see below)
  • Prepare Gift Aid Claim for submission to HMRC.
  • Prepare regular Income and Expenditure Report for Committee Meetings.
  • Submit Annual Financial Report to Independent Examiner for approval.
  • Prepare Annual Financial Report for AGM.
  • Complete Annual Return to Charity Commission.

Apart from an hour or so after each event, I do probably not more than two or three hours every few months (prior to meetings). The exception is possibly several hours finding my way around Govt websites. But having done so, it is generally a piece of cake. I would of course pass it on to my successor.

Key skills are spreadsheet and finding your way around the internet. Business experience is probably essential.


  • This role could be done by one person or divided as suggested below.
  • Event Manager for twice yearly concerts (Could be two people)
  • Events Brochure – produced annually and updated as necessary.
  • Arrange distribution, currently Barbara Carswell
  • Posters – produce and arrange distribution
  • Tickets – produce and arrange distribution to sellers including Marfleets and/or Myrtle & Rose.
  • Monitor sales


Internal Redecoration Project

We have been advised that an autumn completion of this major project, which is being part-funded by The Friends, is now not possible. This is because the contractor cannot start when originally expected and the revised finish time would compromise ‘bat hibernation’ (in Britain all bat species and their roosts are legally protected, by both domestic and international legislation). The current expectation is that the project will be re-scheduled in the spring after Easter.

Café Musica concert cancelled

We regret to inform Friends and supporters that the Café Musica concert scheduled for Saturday 8th October has been cancelled.

The planned work to redecorate the interior of the church is scheduled for October/November this year and it is highly likely that the scaffolding necessary for the work will be in place or under construction at the time the concert was originally scheduled. The scaffolding will almost certainly impinge on the seating areas and otherwise be a health and safety hazard for performers and audience alike. After discussion between Peter Banks of Café Musica and members of the Friends’ committee it has therefore been reluctantly decided to cancel this event. We hope to be able to re-schedule the event for another time.

Mike Hatchard – Cycling from Land’s End to John O’groats with a piano!

MikeHatchardCyclingSome of you may remember the very entertaining concert the multi-talented Mike Hatchard put on for The Friends last October.

Well he is setting out on a typically eccentric fundraising adventure at the end of June for Children In Need and has asked us to spread the word, so I am reproducing his email below for anyone who is interested:

From: Mike Hatchard []
Subject: Cycling from Land’s End to John O’groats with a piano 10

Just a big thank you to all the people that have already contributed to Children in need for my forthcoming cycle/concert tour which, unbelievably, is in another five and a half weeks.

I’m busting a gut trying to get match fit for this, and I’m discovering the real power of Facebook. A few weeks ago I announced I was about to cycle forty five miles, teach for four hours, cycle another twenty and do a gig – a routine I more or less kept up for three days until I nearly collapsed of exhaustion. Without people from Facebook cheering me on I wouldn’t have made it. To stand a chance of doing the real thing this summer I can see I’m going to have to call on all my friends to tell me I can do it. And if anybody doesn’t think they’re able to do that, trust me, you can! I believe in you. You absolutely can!

I’m still looking for extra help along the way – particularly with accommodation. I’ve got a team of great people who have volunteered to drive the support vehicle but I possibly need a few more. Although I’ve probably got enough concerts lined up, I’ve still got gaps especially for the first week in August when I could do with some more dates in the Lake District or Borders. I’ve also found it impossible to get any gigs in the Highlands, although perhaps by that point I’ll just want to cycle straight on to John O’Groats.

Many aspects of this trip are proving quite expensive, so just clicking like on the Facebook page is appreciated – the higher a social media profile I have the easier it will be to get some sponsorship. Here’s the link:-

A trailer is being made for me but I don’t have it yet, and I’m hoping to make a video later this week – if anybody local to Hastings has a cycle trailer they could lend me for a day I’d really appreciate it.

The biggest challenge of my life at the moment is the fact that exercising hard is tiring me out, and there is so much to do. Any help at all is appreciated. I’m planning to make an album over the next few weeks to accompany the tour (hoping to use crowd funding for this) and some of the best musicians known to me have agreed to play on it including Liane Carroll, Liam Genocky, Bobby Worth and Paul Kimber.

So to recap, if you can help with accommodation or are prepared to drive (it doesn’t have to involve a lot of driving, just picking up some equipment from the previous driver and taking it to the next gig, preferably mucking in a bit) or have any useful media contacts then I’d be more than pleased to hear from you. Essentially it’s along the South Coast from 29th June to 16th of July, then in a more or less straight line from Twickenham to Liverpool from the 18th to the 28th of July and a straight line from the Lake District to Edinburgh in the first week of August. I shall be writing a book about the whole adventure, so be warned you might find yourself in it…

Again, thank you. I’m finding the whole thing very moving. Here’s the link to the just giving page, and please note a hundred percent goes to Children in Need.

You can read the review of Mike’s concert for The Friends here: