Why St John's Church Keynsham needs you to preserve 'priceless' heritage

March 30 2017
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A charity that has been fundraising to protect Keynsham’s medieval church for almost 30 years is launching a new phase of activities – and wants residents to join them.

A charity that has been fundraising to protect Keynsham’s medieval church for almost 30 years is launching a new phase of activities – and wants residents to join them. The Friends of St John’s Committee tell readers more about their plans and an event for anyone who would like to get involved

Residents are invited to become part of preserving a “treasure trove” of history when Keynsham’s St John’s Church hosts a wine and cheese evening next month.

The Friends of St John’s charity is holding the free event on Thursday, May 11, which is open to anyone interested in helping to protect the heritage of the town.

The evening will include an illustrated talk about the church’s history featuring some fascinating historical snippets, and a chance to hear more about the charity itself.

The Friends of St John’s have for the last few years been going through a quiet phase, with no fundraising or social events organised since 2014.  This is because over the last few years some of the founding members of the charity have retired after many years of service.

This means there is a particular opportunity at this moment for those interested in history and who care for the Keynsham’s heritage to become involved in the Friends of St John’s.  The opportunity is not simply to become a member (at only £20 a year) but to join the committee to become part of the team that is hoped will take the charity on to its new and exciting next phase.

The charity was founded in 1990 as The Bridges Society, which was linked with the church, but as a completely separate organisation.  Its purpose is to provide for the restoration, upkeep and improvement of the fabric of the parish church and churchyard.  It has had a distinguished history, contributing over £50,000 towards maintaining and improving the church since the charity’s foundation.

The Friends of St John’s are so very important, because the Parish Church of St John the Baptist is arguably the most significant historical building still standing in the town of Keynsham.  First built around 1270, it has been much altered over the years and is full of fascinating artefacts from the last 700 years.  It is fully described in the book St John the Baptist, Keynsham by Elizabeth White published in 2005 and on sale in the church for £5.

As the largest historical building in continuous use for its original purpose in Keynsham it is a priceless part of the town’s heritage.  It is not the oldest historical artefact – the Roman mosaics in the library are much older; nor is it the largest building with a history – the former Fry’s chocolate factory is much larger; nor is it the only historical building still in use – there are many houses around the town built centuries before today, but as a historical building the church is quite unique.

It is firstly exceptional because of its age: most other large medieval buildings have gone.

Secondly it is unique because of its character: it has accumulated over the centuries memories connected with the unique history of Keynsham.  It therefore stands as a kind of elder statesman watching the comings and goings of each new generation, collecting a little something from each one as it passes through.  Furthermore the building is witness to many personal moments: the happy family gathering of a christening or a wedding, and also the poignant and sombre moments of a community gathering to mourn at a funeral.

Thirdly it is important as one of the largest community spaces in the town: with its excellent acoustics it is a favourite venue for concerts. 

Fourthly it is unique in having been a place of prayer for 700 years: and continues in regular daily use as the Anglican parish church of the town. 

The charity is looking to develop a variety of activities that will raise the profile of the Friends of St John’s charity, its work in support of the fabric of the historic building, and offer members activities that are enjoyable and informative.  Ideas include:

  • The development of an annual lecture relating to such subjects as the history of the church (in conjunction with the Keynsham and Saltford Local History Society) free to members of the charity
  • The development of social activities for members such as an annual tour to a place of historical interest
  • An annual concert in the church free to members of the charity

The committee warmly invites you to the free evening on Thursday, May 11.  Come and be part of preserving a building that belongs to the whole community, and be yourself part of its

If you would like to come, either call the secretary John Lye on 0117 986 4683 or email johnlye33@btinternet.com so the committee can anticipate numbers, but you can just come at the last minute too – there will be room.

We look forward very much to meeting you.