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Church Reopens

Radley church reopened on Saturday 14 February 2009 following nine months of repair work to deal with the extensive damage caused by death watch beetle. Fund-raising events and generous donations from the village helped to raise much of the money needed (over £180,000). A legacy and grants from the Oxfordshire Historic Churches Trust of £20,000 made up the rest.

During an Open Day on Saturday 14 February, over 300 people visited the Church to see the new floor, chairs, pews, etc. The new chairs and pews feature the St James cross, which is also seen on the beautiful communion table in matching wood given to the Church. The sunlight streamed through the stained glass windows and the Church appeared full of light.

The Open Day began with a peal of bells at 10 am – the first of the special activities each hour on the hour including a beetle hunt, the choir, prayers and readings.Refreshments were served throughout the day in the Church Room where there was also an exhibition on the history of the Church by Radley History Club and of the photographs taken by the vicar, Rev. Pam McKellen, during the building work.


The Church had been closed for repair work since 2 June 2008. A survey by the church architect, Robert Montgomery, had highlighted three crucial problem areas:

  • Much of the floor of the nave was damaged by beetle, other infestation and rot, and needed repairing or replacing.
  • The organ (and the floor on which it stands) had been damaged and needed to be removed, restored and reinstated.
  • Many of the pews were badly damaged and in need of replacement.

Fortunately the chancel and balcony had not been attacked by the death watch beetle.

While the Church was closed, services had been held in the Church Room and the school hall, apart from those of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day which took place in the Church with temporary seating and special arrangements for music. The first services were held in the reopened church on Sunday 15 February and the Bishop of Reading reordered the Church at a special service on Sunday 1 March.

beetle-Imgp3053-280   churchseating-Imgp3036-280
Commemorative plaque   New seating

Work had included:

  • moving out all the old pews
  • taking up the wooden parts of the floor and the wooden pew platforms
  • levelling the floor in the nave and the south transept
  • putting down a stone floor using existing stonework where possible and replacement stone (‘hand worn beige limestone’) to fill the gaps
  • removing the organ, repairing damage to it and reinstating it
  • providing new seating – a combination of wooden chairs and pews custom made for the Church by Irish Contract Seating
  • installing a new boiler and heating system
  • redecorating the interior of the Church.

Rayners Contractors Ltd of Abingdon carried out the main building works. The organ pipes and organ parts not affected were stored locally, while the damaged and more fragile parts were taken to London to the workshops of Bishop & Son for repair. The organ has been returned to its original location in the south transept though positioned slightly further back.

An appeal was launched in April 2008 to raise funds for the repair work. The appeal was 
co-ordinated by the Friends of St James the Great – Rev Pam McKellen, Graham Steinsberg, David Handscomb (treasurer), Jo McDougall, Emma Moore, Simon Birkett and Judy Harris. This committee approached a number of possible sources of funding and organised a series of 
fund-raising initiatives. Letters seeking support were sent to church members and delivered to everyone in the village. By the end of May, the total stood at over £80,000. The landmark of £100,000 was reached by the end of June 2008. The fund continued to rise during the summer but there was disappointment as work was delayed and did not start until September 2008. The initial target was reached just as the Church reopened.

Major fund-raising events included:

  • A Hide and Seek Art Exhibition at the Sewell Centre, Radley College, in March 2009
    which raised over £3,000
  • The ‘Imagine the Beatles’ concert and auction at the New Theatre, Radley College, on
    18 October 2008 which raised £10,000. Photos

But fund-raising is not over yet as some minor works remain. Details of how to make a donation to the Beetle Fund are given on the Church website. Alternatively contact Rev. Pam McKellen, The Vicarage, Radley, Oxfordshire OX14 2JN (Tel: 01235 554739; email p.mckellen@btinternet.com).

Permanent link to this article: http://www.radleyvillage.org.uk/church-reopens/