Furtho's Ancient Church
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Vicar opposes plan for “first aid” restoration
Some time ago there was a move afoot to demolish the isolated and unused Furtho Church. That move was abandoned and this 900 year old church still stands, neglected and dilapidated near a farmhouse and two cottages – all that remain of Furtho village.
This tiny church, with its broken windows and empty nave and chancel makes a sad picture and though it has escaped the demolishers, may well be in danger of falling down unless repair work is carried out.
This week we heard that the church has attracted the attention of a society called The Friends of Friendless Churches. At the suggestion of the Bishop of Peterborough, Mr Ivor Bulmer Thomas, acting chairman and honorary director, visited the church with an architect.
First aid only
He found that much wanted doing, but has intimated that the Friends are prepared to consider plans for the restoration of the church. Funds however, will not allow any more than first aid repairs to be carried out.
Mr Bulmer Thomas told the Vicar of Potterspury and Yardley Gobion, the Rev. R. G. Richards, of this findings. Mr Richards, who is also Rector of Furtho, in turn reported to the Parochial Church Councils in both villages.
At Potterspury, a large body of the members of the PCC were in favour of restoration – a view that the Vicar says he cannot support.
Writing in this month’s Preston Deanery Church Magazine, Mr Richards puts his point of view.
“The preservation of a church building never likely to be used again for worship, seems to be sentiment in extremis when we are faced with so many challenges to the very survival of the Christian religion and when the resources of the church need to be mobilised to the full to carry out the essential work that needs doing”, he says.
I disagree with the misplaced sentiment for example which contributes to the policy of retaining a church bell in a redundant church rather than to donate it to one of the new churches which could use it regularly to summon people to worship.
“In conclusion may I state categorically that I do not regard Furtho as a place of pilgrimage, neither would I be favourably disposed of the idea of holding a service, even once a year, if and when it is restored”.
Speaking to the “Express” at the Vicarage on Wednesday, the Rev. R. G. Richards explained that some time ago it was found that young vandals had been climbing up one of the church buttresses, walking along the nave roof and tolling the bell. Because of the danger to the children the bell was taken down, but the suggestion that it should be presented to a new church met with such opposition that the bell has remained in the empty church.
The building is a said sight. It is more of a barn than a place of worship. The pews have gone to Potterspury, the altar is in the lady chapel there, the lectern is at Yardley Gobion and the remarkably fine Church plate is also at Potterspury. The silver gilt chalice with cover is dated 1601 and was exhibited at Christie’s some years ago.
Was organist there
Several members of the Potterspury PCC do not agree with the Vicar’s point of view. Among them Mr J D Warren of 1, Chestnut Road, Yardley Gobion, the church treasurer and organist. It was from Mr Warren and his wife that we learned a great deal about Furtho Church. Mr Warren was organist there and remembers the farmhouse being built to replace the old manor. The church, restored in 1870, has not been used regularly since 1921 he says, and the last service he can remember was a harvest festival in 1935 when the church was so packed people had to stand outside.
During the 1939 – 45 war, when an enemy bomb shattered all the windows, the church was used by the Northampton Record Society for storing their documents. The rent was invested and at present there is a balance of more than £25. Mr Warren and others think that from this sum a donation could be made to the Friends of Firendless Churches to enable at least the first aid work to be undertaken.
“After all Potterspury has had from Furtho Church I think it is a bit niggardly not to make a donation”, says Mr Warren.