Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Heritage Open Days - A Review

An examination of 'honest repairs' to the 13th century chancel

When deciding to open up St. Helen’s church in Treeton for the Heritage Open Days this year, the Friends of St. Helen’s Church Trust made a conscious decision to choose the weekend that coincided with the Rotherham ShowAfter all, it had severely declined in recent years in our opinion and, considering that Sunday has always been the most popular day, our marketing strategy was to try and encourage everyone to visit us on Saturday.

The welcome to St. Helen's church on the Heritage Open Days

The Thursday opening was planned as an extension of the regular Coffee Morning and the posters and other publicity material – including posts on Social Media – was primarily intended to encourage more residents of Treeton to visit the church, although we were hoping that we would attract visitors from our listing on the HOD website

Setting up the bunting and balloons to the entrance steps

When setting up the banners, bunting and posters in the morning, having noticed the enthusiasm of the other volunteers who were helping out, I said that “even if we don’t attract a single new visitor, we should just be content to have another day of fun amongst ourselves”, which we did; however, our visitor counter reached 46 and, although we were a bit disorganised in this respect – and included volunteers - everyone agreed that it had been a very successful day. 

Help given to visitors by a member of Treeton Local History Group

In addition to the expected visitors from Treeton and nearby, we had several visitors from Sheffield and further afield and the display stand and the slide show of old photographs produced by the Treeton Local History Group was much appreciated. 

A visitor from Scunthorpe taking photos for her website

For the Saturday, one of my concerns had been that the Rotherham Advertiser and the Rotherham MBC communications team didn’t provide the help in publicising the event that we had asked for. I needn’t have been worried because, despite the weather that changed from very light drizzle at the time of opening to a downpour at the finish, a steady stream of people came through the doors all day. 

A general view of visitors in the nave

The Thursday had been a ‘trial run’ in many respects, catering mainly for the local community, but we all had to step up a gear on the Saturday and I didn’t stop for a moment all day. The many tours of the exterior of the church proved to be very popular, and the ‘two tone’ tower and other architectural features - described by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as “very confusing”- were discussed. 

A display by Trevor Spencer from the Sheffield Indexers

Inside St. Helen’s church, the presence of the Sheffield Indexers was an added bonus and the homemade cakes and other refreshments proved to be very popular, with £106 received for the Friends of St. Helen’s Church Trust – as well as other donations being made towards the Treeton Local history Group and to the badly needed maintenance of this Grade I Listed church. The visitor count for the day was 52 but, with no one specifically delegated to this duty, and with the counter being passed around, this was considered to be an underestimate. 

Cakes and scones

All in all, it was considered to be by far the most successful Open Day that the Friends of St. Helen’s Church Trust had organised, and all those that took part said that they thoroughly enjoyed the day. If I had to express an element of disappointment, it would be that we had all hoped for a dry and sunny day, so that the village stocks could have been opened up to provide some great family entertainment and photo opportunities; however, the rain didn’t stop the sense of fun for a few people that left school very many years ago.

Having fun in the village stocks (Photos provided by Diane Kelsall)

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