ANDOVER’S St Mary’s Church is about to mark the 80th anniversary of its ‘friends group’ with a special service.

At the start of 1934 a number of local Andover people were “specially summoned”

to a meeting by Mrs Morrell, who was the vicar’s wife.

The meeting was to consider the question of the formation of a Guild, to be known as The Friends of St Mary’s. So on Thursday, 15 F e b r u a r y 1934, with the vicar presiding, 30-35 parishioners attended a meeting which led to the formation of the Friends of St Mary’s.

The primary aims of that group are still its values today – to provide for the care and upkeep of the interior of the church, to interest people in the church and to get them to take part in making it more beautiful and to hold at least one annual service for members of the guild.

Reverend Canon John Harkin, the current vicar of St Mary’s, was encouraged by the tenacity and commitment of the members in those early days when the membership subscription was just 2s.6d.

He said that the minutes of those early m e e t i n g s showed that during the first five years the friends provided items for the church, including new altar linen, curtains and carpets.

They also took initiatives such as arranging for the interior walls to be cleaned and redecorated by Beales, a local building firm, and they collected sufficient donations to have the gas lighting replaced by electricity.

The Second World War and the years of austerity that followed slowed down the work of the Friends, although their commitment never completely stopped, said John.

Some members of the Friends saved their rations to provide an occasional tea, they repaired rather than replaced some items, and they held a garden party to raise more funds. That tenacity and commitment has remained true for members of the Friends down the years.

In 2002 a newly formed committee led even more active fundraising and in the last few years the committee members have contributed magnificently in response to the Smart Appeal at the church, with many items of significant value being donated.

Reverend Canon Harkin said: “The friends continue to host a tremendous number of fundraising activities such as Harvest Supper quiz nights and an annual Christmas fayre.

“They are a committed group, led by chair Rosalyn Peszkowski and on behalf of successive generations of people who use this wonderful, iconic building at the heart of Andover, we would like to express our deep thanks to all those who support the Friends.”

To mark the 80th anniversary, there will be a special service in St. Mary’s Church on Saturday, 15 February, at 3pm.