Membership rises despite Covid challenges

A bigger than expected attendance at the 47th annual meeting was welcomed by the chairman Stuart Bowell.

Membership had risen despite the Covid-19 pandemic and cancellation of the society’s programme of visits and events.

There were 478 members at March 31 – an increase of four on the previous year, said Nick Wiggin, membership secretary. While there had been inevitable losses in the last 12 months, he was delighted that seven new members had already joined in September.

In addition, many members had added donations at renewal, which had boosted the Society’s funds by more than £1,000, said the treasurer Nik Chapman.

A total of 30 members of the Round Tower Churches Society and guests met at Ilketshall St Andrew’s village hall, near Bungay, on Saturday, September 25.

Father Philip Gray, the society’s chaplain, led the opening prayers and invited those present to remember former members and officers including Teresa Wiggin and Pauline Spelman.

In his opening remarks and welcome, Mr Bowell was delighted that so many members had managed to attend, overcoming difficulties of obtaining fuel and Covid-19 related issues. “It was a great pleasure to see so many old friends again,” he added.

More than two-thirds of members had earlier visited several round tower churches before the meeting.

Mr Bowell said that Society has “weathered the Covid storm and remains in good heart.”

It was agreed to hold the 2022 annual meeting in early May, which would follow after the usual programme of church tours.

He also reported that the Prince of Wales has agreed to continue as the Society’s patron for five years. He had become patron in 2005 and his support was greatly appreciated, added Mr Bowell.

In a brief summary, Mr Chapman confirmed that the meeting was quorate and he proposed adoption of the annual accounts, which had been included in the September edition of The Round Tower. While a modest surplus of £2,200 was reported to March 31, 2021, the Society had made grants to churches of £13,200 – a reduction from £23,500 in 2020. The Covid-19 lockdown and regulations had prevented many churches from undertaking repair projects, he added.

However, the Society had modestly increased its reserves to £112,832. It had awarded grants of £18,000 to five churches for repairs but not yet spent by March. In addition, since April, a further £14,500 has been promised to another five other churches.

Elections – The following officers were re-elected: Chairman, Stuart Bowell; vice-chairman, magazine and website editor, Michael Pollitt, secretary ‘Lyn Stilgoe; treasurer Nik Chapman; grants’ and membership Nick Wiggin. Committee member Kate Davey.

Julia Hanson, who has stood down from the committee, was also thanked.

Sunshine meeting – Members attending the Society’s 47th annual meeting at Ilketshall St Andrew on Saturday, September 25. Photograph: Michael Pollitt