ASTRA was created to address an immediate problem with the village church when more than twenty tons of stone fell from the tower and the quinquennial report identified serious weaknesses in the structure. An immediate cordon sanitaire was put around the tower and quotes obtained to rectify the problem. Unfortunately, those quotes came in at in excess of £180,000 a sum completely beyond the community’s reach.
ASTRA set about addressing the problem and identified a different way of working:
- Raise money through events thereby building community spirit
- Break the tasks down into a series of professional and DIY undertakings
- Raise money for the Professional tasks
- Raise teams to do the DIY
- Train the DIY teams professionally
- Work with professionals to complete the job at a fraction of the expected cost
- Galvanise support across the community Christian and Secular
The challenge took around five years and was immensely successful.
Situated on the Greensand Ridge overlooking the new city of Milton Keynes, the church of All Saints Bow Brickhill has stood since 1185 (first record) and this strategically important spot has seen many historic events over the years. The Danesborough Hill fort (likely to have been built by anti-Roman tribesmen) is just half a mile north east along the ridge. Boudicca and her Celtic army would have passed close by in 61AD as they marched up Watling Street to their deaths at the hands of the Romans, today somewhere off the A5 near Towcester.
Centuries on in the English Civil War in 1643 a large force of the Earl of Essex’s troops were positioned again at the top of the ridge waiting for the King’s forces to arrive. Starved of ammunition and supplies the Earl’s men were in something of a desperate plight and had Charles attacked perhaps English history would have been very different. The bell frame carries an inscribed date of 1628, the very year Cromwell took his seat in Parliament. A new roof to the church was also erected at this time.
All Saints and its tower has stood proud through two World Wars and functioned as an observation post with the authorities building a wooden planked ‘Ops Room’ within the `sounding chamber’ on the first floor. On the night of the 14th November 1940 All Saints Tower witnessed the most terrible destruction of Coventry. Eye witnesses recorded seeing a dozen or more adapted Heinkels fly over the tower and within the hour the horizon was glowing bright red!
During the “clean up” campaign and within the `Ops Room’ a graffiti wall has been discovered. No doubt to celebrate their ascent of the tower, visitors from 1902 onwards put their signatures in pencil to the two walls.
All Saints Church tower, Bow Brickhill is 60 feet high, standing 200 feet above the plain and 500 feet above sea level was in urgent need of restoration.
A working party was formed to take on this vital task and as you can see from this recent photograph of the refurbished tower, the main work is complete. However with a building of this age, the task is never finished and regular maintenance will always be required.
The project has inspired many in the village to lend a hand; the community spirit has been incredibly up-lifting and mission-creep has led to many more tasks – some urgent, some just desirable – being undertaken. In fact ASTRA Community Projects has evolved as a separate organisation to undertake further restoration projects on the church’s buildings and property with Bow Brickhill Church Hall being the first of these under consideration.
Astra 500 Club
The ASTRA 500 Club is a great, fun and rewarding way to involve friends and family whilst supporting this important heritage project. It costs just £1 a month to buy your number.
Three numbers will be drawn on the last Thursday in each month at the Wheatsheaf Public House, Bow Brickhill at 8:00pm.
The money raised will go directly to meet the church building’s maintenance and renovation costs. . This is a small society lottery registered with Milton Keynes Council under the gambling licensing regulations.
It is illegal for ASTRA to sell numbers to anyone under the age of 16; however adults can buy multiple numbers. The administrator for the ASTRA 500 Club will endeavour to provide members with numbers of their choice but if this is not possible, the administrator’s decision is final and the next available number will be allocated.