We drove back into Nottingham, through the estates of Bilborough, and found St Martin of Tours church. To quote the HODs paperwork, “St Martin’s Road is a cul de sac opposite the police station on Strelley Road. The church is at the end of St Martin’s Road.” Grid ref is SK 520418. They have obviously had a lot of money from the HLF for their “Hidden Treasures” project, and have spent some of it on an excellent website, more on a lovely little book, Hidden Treasures: A Labour of Love, edited by Cathy Grindrod, and a colour leaflet – lovely too that church website, facebook and twitter are included. For those of us doing MAs in Public History and Heritage, Grindrod’s book is an excellent case study.
As I walked through the estate to the church I thought “what an ugly extension”. When the Reverend Amanda Cartwright took up her post as priest-in-charge in 2007 she was shown round this church, they were worshipping in this extension, and told that the original medieval church, built in 1356, was out of use. The electrics had been condemned because of the damp, paint was peeling from the walls, the tower had lost its parapet, the roof was leaking, and there had been a lot of vandalism.
The extension had been built in the 1970s, joined to the original church on the north side of the Chancel, the floor of the extension had replaced the original church floor, the east window had been bricked up, boarded and emulsioned. There was a memory of a mural by the artist Evelyn Gibbs (1905-1991), but it was thought it had been destroyed too. Even Pauline Lucas, who had written the biography of Evelyn Gibbs, thought it had gone. Amanda asked electricians working in church whether they could have a look, and they found the paintings. The full story is here.
There is a page about Evelyn Gibbs here, and the book says she came to Nottingham in 1939. She painted for the War Artists Advisory Committee, and then painted these murals in 1946 for Father Marshall. The Annunciation, Gabriel and Mary, on either side of the East Window, set in the local Bilborough village, with the farmhouse and church between them.
A lady called Hilary Wheat became churchwarden, and they started work. Grant applications in 2009 and 2010, starting to restore the tower, sorting out stonework and lead. In 2011 it was suggested that the medieval church could be restored as the primary place of worship. 2012 saw work begin with the HLF and the development stage of the Hidden Treasures Project was worked up. Work started in May 2014. It was not just a building project, a restoration project, but a writing, art and community project. Thank you. Let us enjoy what they have achieved.
Craftsmen in lead are remembered, and the ceiling is in good condition.
The base of the font is c 1400, the bowl about 1661. The Helwys Memorial commemorates Sir Edmund Helwys, whose son Thomas later founded England’s first Baptist church in London in 1612. History, craft, and the getting people together are obviously a major part of the life of this church – there was plenty of life on display. They are doing more research.
The last line of the leaflet sums up what we all seek to do. “All of us have skills and talents that we could make more of – hidden treasures that are waiting to be discovered. Come and find yours at St Martin’s.”