A FUND-RAISING fellowship is being established to support the £3million campaign to help restore and safeguard the Collegiate Church of St Mary in Warwick as it approaches its 900th anniversary.
The Order of St Mary will help fund essential repairs to ensure it can stay open, while providing a regular stream of income to help secure the future of the Warwickshire church for the 21st century.
The Order is being established to coincide with the 550th anniversary year of the death of another significant figure in the church and the town’s story — Richard Neville, the 16th Earl of Warwick who was known as ‘Warwick the Kingmaker’.
Visitors to St Mary’s can see what is thought to be the only depiction of Neville to be made in his lifetime, on the tomb of his father-in-law Richard Beauchamp, the 13th Earl of Warwick.
Membership of The Order of St Mary begins at £500 a year, with a programme of exclusive events and special visits to other places of ecclesiastical, heritage and cultural interest organised for those who join.
The Grade I-listed church can trace its history back to 1123, and Reverend Vaughan Roberts says there is an urgent need to raise £2million to meet the cost of repairs to the landmark tower to avoid its closure to the public.
The original tower was destroyed in the Great Fire of Warwick in 1694, and was rebuilt between 1700 and 1702. It stands over 155ft high and is visible from miles around.
A further £1million is needed to secure the fabric, music and ministry of the church.
Campaign 2023 aims to raise the majority of the fundraising by 2023, to coincide with St Mary’s 900th anniversary.
Rev Roberts, Vicar of St Mary’s and team rector of Warwick said: “Joining the Order of St Mary will give people locally and nationally a rewarding opportunity to provide ongoing support to our wonderful and historic church on a number of different levels.
“St Mary’s has a significant place in the history of the town of Warwick, the county of Warwickshire, and indeed our country, and has so many stories to tell, including that of Richard Neville.
“If people know anything about the name Warwick, they will almost certainly know the name Warwick the Kingmaker, by which Neville was known. He was such a power of the land and was closely connected with St Mary’s, especially the building of the Beauchamp Chapel, and it is to coincide with his anniversary we have decided to launch the latest element of our fundraising campaign.
“The cost of maintaining our history is substantial and we hope that by establishing the Order, and with the easing of Covid 19 restrictions, even more people can get involved in our campaign as they return to a more communal life.”
Email [email protected] for more information.