Parish News

First Sunday Giving

At its December meeting, the PCC agreed that the First Sunday collections in 2918 would be given to the following missions and charities: For the months of January, February, April, June, July and August, we shall support the work of a national charity and The Children’s Society, a well-known Christian organisation working at community level for the welfare of children and families. In March, during Lent, we shall as usual support The Bishop of London’s Lent Appeal, which this year is aimed at provision for the homeless. For May, when we consider an international agency, our cause will be Christian Aid. In September and October we shall support, as in previous years, The Leprosy Mission (to coincide with our Patronal Festival) The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution respectively, (marking Harvest Festival). The last two charities of the year will be new departures for us. In November our giving will be for Medecins Sans Frontieres, the international medical agency often seen at work in areas of conflict; and finally, at various services in Advent and Christmas, we have chosen next year to devote our giving to The Albert Kennedy Trust, a smaller and less well-known charity working among the LGBT people facing homelessness. Our congregations have been very supportive in the past; I very much hope you will feel you can support these initiatives during 2018. We shall aim to bring some speakers from these charities to St Giles through the year.

Richard Casserley, Bell ringer

Following last month’s piece about Richard Casserley, here is a fuller account, drawn from an article by Prudence Fay in ‘The Ringing World,’ which proves yet again how St Giles continues to attract real characters.

Richard, who died on 19th October, aged 80, was a ringer with many interests, which he pursued intensively. At his funeral on 7th November at Berkhamsted, he was described as ‘a one-off’ and ‘something of an English eccentric. ‘Richard liked old things’ said a friend, such as the ancient and disreputably battered briefcase he always carried. He was invariably to be found after practice in the nearest pub with a pint and most likely a pork pie, and he owned two ancient cars, one a 1957 Morris Minor, for which in 2007 he organised a 50th-birthday quarter peal, and the other, a Morris 12/4 c.1935 that his father had bought during the war, registration CMH 79, and which he still drove in summer to Sunday ringing. Even until recently he was making old-fashioned hand signals.

Within ringing itself, Richard had two further passions: ringing quarter peals, and ‘tower-grabbing’ [which means, I think, visiting other towers: Alan]. Friends’ detective work after his death settled on a total of 2,364 quarter-peals of which 230 were rung at his home tower [Berkhamsted], more than 500 at his other tower, St Giles-in-the-Fields and a further 399 in churches in the Chilterns. Of ‘tower-grabbing’ it is reckoned that his total was an astonishing 6,363. The last ‘grab’ was on 7th October, less than a fortnight before he died, at Houghton in Hampshire. He rang only 13 (full) peals, the first in 1971 and the last in 1985 – both for the Railway Guild.

Richard was a steam-engine and railway enthusiast all his life, and also worked for British Railways. A group of us were very impressed when because of a cancelled train we were stranded with him on a ringing outing into the Kent borders of outer London. Richard nonchalantly approached the station master and had the next train make an unscheduled stop at the station to pick us up.

His father, H. C. Casserley, was a famous railway photographer and from him Richard inherited his vast archive of railway photos dating back beyond the 1930s. Richard and his daughter Mary together produced a book entitled Steaming Through Berkhamsted, which came off the presses (sadly) just a few days too late for him to see it.

In the mid-1970’s he joined the regular Thursday-lunchtime band at St Giles-in-the-Fields, Holborn, and in April 1997, when Keith Matthews had to retire suddenly because of ill health, Richard was elected ringing master, a post he held for ten years. The main event during his mastership was the restoration of St Giles’s historic ring of bells in 2006. James Ingham, who was treasurer at the time, notes that it was Richard’s suggestion of making a substantial interest-free loan to the church for this, as well as making a donation to the fund, that was ‘a game changer . . . in translating the project from a rough plan to something we could really achieve.’ Richard also took the lead liaising with the then Rector, The Revd. Dr. Bill Jacob, and he helped significantly to bring the bells and the ringers closer to the church and the congregation – particularly after Sunday evensong in the Angel pub next door!

‘In his zeal for quarter peals and ‘tower-grabs,’ he was aided and abetted by his friend, the late Stella Shell, also a St Giles ringer, often vying with her in The Ringing World’s lists for top quarter peal ringer of the year. He will be much missed. At his request the bells at St Peter’s were rung half-muted before his funeral Requiem by many friends. He and his wife Margaret were married in 1964; they had five children and three grandchildren.

Tom Lawrence, the current ringing master, adds: On a brighter note, I’m pleased to report that our peal to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation was successful, as follows:


HOLBORN, London, St Giles-in-the-Fields

Saturday, 25th November 2017 | 3 hours, 10 minutes (14)

5024 Rutland Surprise Major

Comp. P M Mason (No.94)

#1#Bridget Campbell

#2#Thomas F Lawrance (C)

#3#Caroline A Stockmann

#4#E Lesley Barclay

#5#J Richard Anthony

#6#Martin B Sutcliffe

#7#Edward J W Manley

#8#Nicholas Wilkins

Two new lighting schemes

Much as I love the Dickensian gloom that can often wrap itself around St Giles and would hate to dispel it with the brash modern lighting of the 21st century, yet even I must concede that there are times when it is helpful to see what you are doing. To this end, therefore, though still mindful of the charm of the antique, two lighting projects are shaping up that may be of some interest to you.

The first, which will be installed during January, is to provide permanent lighting to the north and south choir areas in order to replace the studio lamps that have been threatening to fall down onto the singers’ heads for some years now and desperately need replacing. We will know if we have done our work well if no one notices them. A modest, practical improvement, I hope you will agree.

More dramatic still, and of a different order altogether, is a scheme to provide architectural lighting to the church tower. As we become increasingly engulfed by ever higher local buildings, so we need to enhance as best we can the presence of the church in the public realm. The project is already 18 months in preparation, but in the coming few months we hope to receive Faculty permission to undertake the work. There will be a period of official consultation, but if anyone does want to object, please speak to me first!

What’s On?

The primary ministry of St Giles is Christian hospitality. Our Church was founded for this purpose in 1101 and continues in the same spirit today.

The key way in which we express this is by remaining open for prayer and quiet throughout the week. No questions are asked of the one who comes to pray, and no demands made on the weary, the inquisitive or the random visitor. As God’s love is at the heart of our life and church, so his presence is at the heart of such hospitality.  We also seek to enrich the spiritual experience of visiting St Giles by playing host to a changing calendar of music, art and cultural events.

Finally, we work to make the church and its surroundings available for a wide range of community groups, local organisations and events. These activities are run by outside groups; however, we are delighted to be able to provide a space for these groups.

Christmas Services

Copy of Happy Holidays poster (3).jpg

World Food Market

We host a World Food Market, arranged by Epicurean Events, in the North Churchyard on Thursdays from 10am to 3pm. This is a great opportunity to enjoy the churchyard and have a break from the usual sandwich shops, so do pop along if you work nearby for a choice of warm lunches from around the world.

World Food Market 3

Support Groups

Simon Community LogoSt Giles is pleased to host Support Groups who provide food and drink for the body, mind and spirit. From 2pm to 4pm on Saturdays and from 1.15pm to 3.15pm on Sundays the Simon Community set up a mobile Street Café in the north churchyard to dispense tea, coffee, sandwiches, fruit, cake and words of advice, seeking to reach out to the most unreachable. If you want to know more or find details of how to volunteer, please visit their website.

During the week, Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous groups gather in the Vestry House behind the Church. By definition, these are only open to those who seek such support and in each case the website (or word of mouth) is usually the first point of contact. Theses groups are entirely self-directed and operate independently of St Giles, but we are pleased to provide meeting space at the heart of the West End, where both addictions are only too prevalent.

Details of the timing of support groups can be found in our calendar on the side of this page.