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Beedon declares year of celebration as church reaches 800th milestone

The Grade I-listed St Nicholas' Church, built in 1220, lies on the outskirts of Beedon near the Berkshire Downs.

To celebrate its milestone 800th anniversary – delayed due to the Covid pandemic – a special committee has organised an exciting programme of events for later this year.

The schedule kicks off on April 2 (Palm Sunday) with an attempt to ring a quarter peal of Grandsire, echoing a similar event which took place 100 years ago.

Celebrating 800 years of St Nicholas Church in Beedon
Celebrating 800 years of St Nicholas Church in Beedon

On April 2, 1923, local bell ringers completed the first peal of Grandsire Doubles on the Beedon bells. The peal last two hours and 50 minutes and involved 5,040 changes.

One of the ringing team was the grandfather of a current churchwarden, Iris Stockwell, also a former bellringer.

Come June, the committee plans to host a 'History of Beedon', with an 'In Memory Day' where personal floral tributes can be laid. There will also be a garden party in the churchyard and a 'Songs of Praise' service.

The committee also proposes to invite the Bishop of Reading, Olivia Graham, to attend one of its services in July.

St Nicholas Church with snowdrops in bloom
St Nicholas Church with snowdrops in bloom

In September, the committee is planning a parish walk from Beedon to Peasemore, followed by a service in December to commemorate St Nicholas – the patron saint of sailors who shares a legendary connection with Father Christmas.

All events are provisional and will be publicised in more detail nearer the time.

The church, built on the site of an earlier church dating from 1146, currently provides three services per month.

St Nicholas Church in Beedon
St Nicholas Church in Beedon

Newbury Field Club described the church as "unique but somewhat dilapidated" when they visited in 1878.

But a few years later in 1882, Lord and Lady Wantage supported a major restoration. This included the provision of a new bellcote and shingled spire and meant the four existing bells, dating from 1615 to 1672, were rehung.

To commemorate their generosity, the church carved a representation of their heads in the external corbels of the Priest's Door in the chancel.

Another substantial restoration took place in the early 2000s, costing £60,000 and resulting in the church of today.

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