Christmas to remember for Rugby village going back to the future

A busy few weeks lie ahead in Willoughby as the village celebrates the ongoing work to transform its parish church – and awareness of its heritage.

Malcolm Lewis, Andrea Hughes and Maggie Beech pictured inside the historic St Nicholas Church in Willoughby, where work to renew the nave roof has also triggered wide-ranging celebrations of the village’s heritage.

The weekend of December 9-11 is the one to get in the diary.

On Friday there will be a Santa trail around the village from 5-7.30pm, with a tree festival in the churchyard.

Then on Saturday morning there will be a Santa dash around the playing fields. It costs £5 for a family entry and £3 for individuals, with registration at the village hall from 9.30am. There will be a medal on offer and hot breakfast and refreshments for sale.

The Saturday afternoon sees a Christmas market and table-top sale in the village hall from 1.30-4pm, quickly followed by the return of the Santa trail from 5-8pm.

And then on the Sunday there will be the carol service at 4pm with the Posada being brought into the church after its tour around a number of schools in the area and homes in the village, with its representation of Joseph, Mary and the donkey on their journey to Bethlehem.

This busy weekend is just part of a remarkable year for the village which saw two major projects for the historic church take giant leaps forward, along with an encouragement to discover more of the village’s past and embrace it for the future.

A huge moment arrived in May with the National Lottery Heritage Fund giving the go-ahead for work to start on the nave roof following its award of just over £248,000.

Earlier in that month a separate fundraising target was reached by the Willoughby community for kitchen and toilet facilities to be installed in the church. In September work got under way, with the same company employed to carry out both projects.

Sunday services have continued, with a variety of work taking place to make the historic building fit for the future, while also helping to unearth more about its past.

Churchwarden Karen Nichols said: “The work we have done and still are, is unimaginable.

“We are exploring the puzzle that is our church, the mystery behind when parts were constructed – particularly the tower – and have been following clues.

“We have been contacting archives, villagers have followed up an article found dating back to 1630. We are having masonry dated by a 3D scan. The cemetery has buried gravestones we are uncovering and trying to find the families.”

“We have held events like a heritage weekend, spooky goings-on in the churchyard, craft events in the church, all with a small group of dedicated volunteers who call on others to help.”

The lottery funds other projects, including a series of leaflets on Willoughby’s history, with one for children featuring Charlie the church mouse.

One of the volunteers the Advertiser met this week, Andrea Hughes, said there were other events coming up and they were so encouraged by the interest received: “We want the work to appeal to a wide audience. The village has been very supportive and we couldn’t have done it without them – and we have had support from neighboring villages as well.

“Churches are big expensive buildings to keep going but it’s part of our heritage and it’s the oldest building in the village.”

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