Recorder’s Report, Littlebury Parish October 2011- December 2012
The winter of 2011 – 2012 was the most severe for many years, Littlebury being deep in snow for several weeks, but November was mild and the Friends of Holy Trinity Church turned out in force to carry on with the work of keeping the churchyard kempt at a twice-yearly event known as the Ivy Pull, a name derived from a large initial task in the churchyard. 36 gardeners, including children, worked all afternoon just before Remembrance Sunday enjoying a sumptuous tea at the end of it. That same month the Friends held an Arts Weekend in the village hall. Sales of paintings and ticket sales for the highlight of the weekend, a concert given by the University of London Chamber Choir, raised £1,124.30 towards the Tower Project aimed at the safety of bell ringers and clock winders. The musical director of the choir, Dr Colin Durrant, and Claire, his wife after happening upon an Ivy Pull in progress when visiting the village had moved here the following year, so impressed were they by the community spirit.
Our conservation area has been reappraised. In addition to the parish council’s thoughts, it was good, as Recorder, to have the opportunity to suggest to Bruce Tice who was masterminding the consultation, the inclusion of North End with its estate houses built in 1873 for estate workers. Falling within, and enhancing the Audley End estate, they have been managed well. Researching this small hamlet for an article reveals that North End has much more history than a few houses in a lane that runs out seem to warrant; aerial photographs of 1956 show an ancient yard and barns that have since disappeared under brambles, while messuages of the 1700s, that were allotments still in the 1950s, are now mainly grassed over or provide parking. Rabbits stare at dogs and the dogs pass by, taking little notice of each other in an area sometimes called Watership Down.
The council houses of Merton Place were unfortunately not considered to have sufficient merit for inclusion in a conservation area. Council houses built in the 1940s and 50s are a particularly English type of housing that immediately represented greater comfort, more light and space and much better washing and cooking facilities for their first tenants. Our houses ‘on the hill’ are set well back from the road, backed by fields. They have generous front, and back gardens that can support chickens and vegetable growing. Their beauty lies in their utility and the pattern they make, semi-detached, with matching hedges lining the bank that abuts the road, painted, as they used to be, uniformly by the council. They may not be to everyone’s taste; perhaps decades must pass before this kind of architecture, and its rationale for being there, will be appreciated. The 1980 Housing Act, giving the right to buy, steadily erodes their uniformity and that of their surroundings. Where the houses are still council owned old windows and doors have been replaced with those that are more energy efficient, subtly changing the frontage of the street. The chance to buy one’s own home enhances lives whilst also altering the street scene, and the sale of council housing creates greater pressure on the District Council to house the homeless.
Peggy’s Walk at Littlebury village’s western extremity has sixteen new houses, known as Trinity Court, a reference to the church. Many of our new neighbours have jumped enthusiastically into village life, one or two even joining committees; they are quickly absorbed into the social tapestry. Littlebury is good at this. However the sale of private houses since the middle of 2012 seems to have drawn to a halt in the centre of Littlebury village. The recession, plus the banks’ new criteria for mortgage lending, makes house buying very difficult for first time buyers. Consequently those further up the chain cannot move either, with the result that several beautiful properties that would have been snapped up quickly a year or so ago remain on the market. But village friends remain with us a little longer.
In April Michael O’Sullivan, chair of the parish council, retired from this position. It is sad to lose a good chairman; the council and any members of the public who attended meetings will miss his barrister’s ability to come to the point and exercise his acerbic wit. The summer of 2012 was celebrated in the pouring rain with a Diamond Day to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee, in July there was a Games, Fete and Fun Day in exemplary summer weather and Littlebury Green ran their annual Barn Dance. The village photograph was twice postponed due to rain, the shutter only finally clicking at the last attempt for the year, late on a balmy September afternoon.
There have been several changes to the interior of Holy Trinity Church. Many pews to the front have been removed to make a space for activities. During the works a massive headstone was discovered in the south nave, a large chip in the top right corner giving a clue to its presence – where else could such a large and now useless item go? The floor had to be re-tiled where pews had been removed, not an easy pattern to design, matching metric tiles to the surrounding imperial ones. A maintenance platform was built in the tower, a project overseen by Bob Rust and paid for, £5,000 odd, by the Friends. Café Church, a new monthly service that includes croissants and coffee has proved popular and the festivals of the year continue to be celebrated. The new churchwarden, Janice Rust, and the PCC organised several events around Christmas, with a delightful crib service, the children directed by Louise Johnson, and at a couple of the services the small, newly formed Littlebury Singers performing, led by Colin Durrant, who, with Claire, is reviving the musical life of the church. This small choir that also occasionally performs for local weddings is encouraged but badly needs tenor and bass voices.
Late in the year came the news that Rev. Christopher Warren is seriously ill. Those who know him are very distressed for him, and for his talented and musical wife Isabella, two people who have in recent years have become known and loved in our community.
Most of all of the community events in Littlebury are publicised or subsequently reported on at www.littleburyparishcouncil.org.uk (which receives an astonishing number of hits, particularly on refuse collection days, Black Bin? - Green Bin? receiving the most), but this year it is good to draw attention to the contribution that the Wendens Ambo and Littlebury Parish News makes by landing on our doorsteps at the beginning of every month. It has been edited, produced and collated over many years, from hard copy only, by Betty Newbold of neighbouring Wendens Ambo. Delivered to every household in Littlebury parish by volunteers it informs everyone of what is going on - and not just at church - a reminder that we are fortunate to live in communities where many people give up their time for the general good, for the love of it. Saved each year, the Wendens Ambo and Littlebury Parish News provides an invaluable aide-memoire for this report.
Littlebury Local History Recorder