7 The Friends of St Lawrence
St Lawrence, Whitchurch, Little Stanmore is a unique English parish church which is visited annually by people from all over the world – of all faiths and none. Rebuilt by the first Duke of Chandos (1674-1744) in the early 18th century, the church’s continental baroque interior contains many treasures including:
• a ceiling painted by Louis Laguerre
• stunning oak Corinthian columns and other woodwork carved by the famous Grinling Gibbons
• wall paintings and frescoes, one of which is attributed to the Venetian artist Antonio Belluci;
• the church organ which Handel used around 1717, when he was composer in residence to the first Duke of Chandos
• an impressive and ornate mausoleum, in which the first Duke and many of his family are interred.
We encourage those who have not seen this beautiful building to come and visit us. It is open each Sunday afternoon and guides are regularly present to ensure you see all that it has to offer.
Who are the Friends of St Lawrence and what do they do?
Over 40 years ago dedicated parishioners and others, including the then Poet Laureate, Sir John Betjeman, campaigned to restore the church to its former glory.
Money was raised. The restoration work by skilled experts commissioned from continental Europe began in 1973. It was finished in 1984. From then on the church was able to be seen again as it was over 250 years earlier - when Handel was at the organ, and the Duke was in in his elevated first floor Pew, and the congregation was packed downstairs in the traditional 18th century box pews.
The Friends of St Lawrence came into existence to help finance this restoration. The Friends is a charitable trust. It does not contribute to the day-to-day work and expenses of the church’s Christian mission. This is covered through collections in church services and planned giving by the congregation.
The object of the Friends charitable trust is secular. It is simply - to secure the preservation of the building for the benefit of the nation. Over the last 40 years the Friends have contributed more than £70,000 towards restoration and maintenance projects. We continue to do so.
It is now over 30 years since the restoration was completed. In the coming years more costly work will be needed simply to preserve what was achieved by the restorers in the 1970s and 1980s, and to address quickly the many other unforeseen problems that inevitably develop with buildings of this age.
The committee of the Friends encourages all St Lawrence churchgoers and visitors to consider subscribing annually or making donations to the Friends. It only costs £5 a year, and life membership is available for £75 (£50 if aged 60 or over). In supporting us, you will be helping to ensure that this historic building can be enjoyed by generations to come.
A model Membership form is attached (link to the form), which can be returned to one of the officers named below. Otherwise the forms are also available in the church porch or by contacting one of the officers.
Given our musical associations, the Friends organise regular concerts in the church to raise funds for work on the fabric of the building. These concerts are open to everyone. In recent years there have been performances of many well-known works, including of course, Handel’s famous ‘Chandos Anthems’, which he composed while working at St Lawrence’s.
We will regularly update information on our upcoming concerts and events on this website - see Services & Events.
If you would like early e mail notifications of forthcoming concerts we can include you on our mailing lists. Please let either of the officers know if you would like to be included on these mailing lists.
We look forward to seeing you at our events and thank you in advance for supporting us.
John Ringguth (Chairman) [email protected]
Stuart Cawthorne (Treasurer) [email protected]