About St James' Church
St James' and the Churchyard is an important historic asset in Charfield. It is part of the original settlement of the village and is highly valued by the community. In the Charfield Neighbourhood Plan Survey of 2013 it was the highest valued Character Asset attracting 84% support. There is a memorial to those who lost their lives in the Charfield Rail Disaster of 1928, and about 230 known graves.
The churchyard has a very uneven grass surface with many self seeded trees, but since this group was set up in 2017, with the help of the local community, we have put a stop to things deteriorating even further by keeping on top of any new issues. There are a number of tombs, which are in a perilous state, including 9 that are listed. We are working towards restoring some of these over the next few years, funding allowing. We commissioned a condition report on the graveyard to understand the full extent of the work needed on the tombs and the graveyard in May 2018. This provided us with a list of the restoration work needed, a priority listing and the feasibility of the repair of some of the tombs and other graves .
St James' Church itself is a beautiful largely 15th century building. It is looked after by the charity The Churches Conservation Trust. The grounds and boundary walls are under the control of South Gloucestershire Council.
What is our purpose?
The purpose of The Friends is to work to help conserve, maintain, and improve the grounds of St James' Church for the benefit of the village. We would like to increase public interest in the beautiful building and its grounds, and increase its use.
When do we meet?
We normally meet every 6 weeks or so, at St James' in the good weather and at a volunteer's house in the winter months. We hold working parties to do some general maintenance in the churchyard as and when required-but there is always something to do, for example exposing edging stones that have been covered over and removing ivy. We always ensure there are at least two volunteers present for health and safety reasons and to support each other in decisions about what jobs to carry out.
How are we funded?
We apply for grants to fund the work. We apply to Charfield Parish Council, local businesses and companies, increasing in size to larger national companies like supermarkets with community schemes, for example the Tesco blue token scheme, Waitrose green token scheme. We would love to be able to apply to The People's Postcode Lottery, National Lottery Heritage Fund and other large schemes. We also have a presence in the village holding cream teas, jumble sales and other events.
We have also received personal donations.
If we are lucky enough to be awarded a grant, we agree how to spend the money and organise the works. This can be a complicated task as there are many organisations involved as the church and churchyard remain consecrated. Any repair work or alteration will be subject to the Church of England's Faculty Jurisdiction; consultation with the Diocese, Historic England and other amenity bodies.
Examples of our work
Plot 65, Family name Beams, 1930s, before and after
Plot 94, Family name Browne, 1940s, before and after