PARISH PROFILE OF ALL SAINTS, SOUTHILL
(Joint Benefice with All Saints, Clifton)
Southill is situated in lovely countryside in Central Bedfordshire between the local market towns of Biggleswade and Shefford, which together provide the essential amenities. Each town has a Health Centre with associated medical practice, a selection of shops including supermarkets, public lending libraries, a variety of restaurants and schools catering for pupils aged between 4 and 18 years: there is a school in Southill for pupils aged 4+ to 8. Biggleswade also offers a leisure centre and indoor swimming pool. A regular bus service links Southill with both these towns and a half-hourly train service runs from Biggleswade to London (Kings Cross) . Road links are good with easy access to the A1.
There are extensive walks in the local area, whilst not far away is the Headquarters of the RSPB which provides opportunities for nature study walks. Nearby is the Swiss Garden, a beautiful example of an early 19th century garden combining ornamental features and picturesque architecture, whilst the Shuttleworth Collection housed at Old Warden is unique. It is the world’s only exhibition of flying historic aircraft dating from 1909 up to World War II and just beyond. Local facilities are available for all major sports, both indoors and outdoors, and there are several golf courses nearby. The championship courses at Woburn are only a short drive away.
Slightly further a-field, at some 10 miles distance lies the county town of Bedford which offers a better selection of shops and both a multi-screen cinema and theatre. One of the two local hospitals is situated in Bedford, the other is at Stevenage. The historic university city of Cambridge, which offers many cultural attractions, is some 25 miles away as also is Milton Keynes, renowned for its indoor shopping centre, theatre and the largest indoor ski centre in Great Britain.
Southill Parish is geographically the largest in the Deanery, but sparsely populated. Much of the land is committed to farming, whilst Southill Park is extensively wooded. The Parish comprises three villages - Broom, the largest, Southill and Stanford - and the hamlet of Ireland which together cover an area of 2291 hectares. The population totals some 1160, of which about a fifth are retired people. The occupational mix is broad and although home ownership now predominates, a significant number of the approximately 500 houses are rented. All the Parish lies within both Southill Parish Council and Central Bedfordshire District Council. The only other place of worship within the Parish is a Strict Baptist Chapel in Southill. The Methodist and Roman Catholic churches are in Biggleswade and Shefford.
Almost all the houses in Southill are owned by the Southill Estate and provide rented accommodation for the villagers, some of whom work for the Estate or other local employers. There is a Village Stores, with a tearoom, a Lower School which caters for up to 75 children in the first five years of schooling (4+ to 8+) and which has been assessed as good by an OFSTED Inspection Team, a refurbished Parish Hall which provides facilities for both intra and extra village activities including a playgroup, a well known public house and a cricket team which plays at one of the nicest grounds in Bedfordshire situated within Southill Park. A millennium wood was planted in 2000 to celebrate the event.
Broom village houses the majority of the population of the Parish in almost exclusively privately owned properties, most of which have been built in the last 50 - 55 years. Many of the residents commute to work. It has a village hall - also refurbished – which provides facilities for a wide variety of activities and a public house which is again well known within the local area, there are good opportunities for social interaction. The old gravel quarry between Broom and Upper Caldecote has been closed and following completion of the extraction process the restoration of the area provides a welcome additional recreational facility for the Parish and beyond. A second quarry is now in operation between Broom and Stanford.
Stanford and Ireland are much smaller centres of population and lack many of the amenities offered by both Southill and Broom, but Stanford has a thriving community playing field and also has a public house with rooms.
The Church, which is situated on the boundary of Southill Park, was at one time surrounded by estate workers cottages, but a decision taken in the early 19th Century moved the villagers away from the Estate and left the Church in a somewhat isolated location on the edge of the village. It is a simple, light and attractive building with interesting historical associations - the tomb of Rear Admiral Byng is contained with other family members in an attached columbarium - set in a pleasant and tranquil churchyard.
Over the past 25 years various restoration works have been undertaken including three major programmes. In 1992 a programme of work to the stonework of the Nave was completed at a cost of £20,000. In 1995 further repairs to the stonework of the tower were undertaken and completed at a cost of £57,500, whilst 2002 saw the end of work to re-roof the Chancel and North and South Aisles, repair internal ceilings and redecoration of some of the internal walls and ceilings of the church at a cost of £98,500. Affording these repairs was only possible by dint of receiving generous grants from English Heritage and other charitable organisations, supported by the efforts of the congregation.
Stonework repairs to the exterior of the building have been completed including extensive work on the tower. Further work has been undertaken outside the church walls to improve the drainage of the surface water from the roof which was necessary to tackle the problem of rising damp. Work was undertaken to provide on site toilet facilities, suitable access for the disabled and additional storage space and adequate provision for the Sunday School. Protective metal screens have been added to the stained glass windows and a fire escape system has been added to the ringing chamber in the tower. A plumbed in kitchin facility based on folding cupboards has been installed enabling much better catering when refreshments are required.
The Church is floodlit and annual running costs are met by sponsorship which has proved very successful over the last 15 years. Grass cutting in the churchyard is done by a contractor and the PCC receives a grant from Southill Parish Council for 25% of the cost.
A complete new computer controlled heating system has been installed replacing a 60 year old oil fired boiler and recently the church electrical wiring system was replaced to meet the latest IEC standards. Also, through a generous donation, a audio sytem, including a loop for those with impaired hearing, was installed with four radio microhones and a CD player.
The Electoral Roll currently stands at 39 and the average weekly attendance is about 25. A Service is held each Sunday starting at 9.00am and currently the 1st Sunday in the month is a Family Service and the 4th Sunday of the month is an Order One (Traditional) service of holy communion: on the remaining Sundays an Order Two service of holy communion is provided. On the 1st Sunday of the month an Order One (Traditional) service of Holy Communion is celebrated at 8am, and on the 3rd Sunday of the month a Sunday school is held.
We currently have no Lay participation in leading Worship, but we do have 3 members of the congregation qualified to assist the celebrant. During the year it is normal for baptismal services, weddings and funerals to take place and there are special services for Christingle, Harvest, Mothering Sunday and Remembrance Sunday. This last Service takes place at the village memorial. Two lay members of our Church have been responsible for marriage preparation for many years and lay participation is encouraged: nevertheless, there is a need for the churches ministry within the Parish to be extended particularly among young adults and children.
Being part of a joint Benefice with Clifton has worked very well and given members of both congregations the opportunity to worship together at various times and to attend joint social occasions.
The PCC comprises 13 members with an age range of 40 to 80. Routine meetings are held quarterly in the Rectory at Clifton. Special meetings can be called as required and sub groups are formed as necessary.
There are no Lay Readers currently in the Southill Parish but Reader Robin Welsford who is based in Clifton often attends Southill
The Balance Sheet at the 31st December 2015 showed current assets of £19652, of which £9785 was unrestricted, £7,040 was designated and £19 was restricted. The year showed a deficit of £1,251. Christian Stewardship is practised and together with visitor’s donations raised £11,304, including a tax rebate of £2,345 during the year.
Being a joint Benefice, the Parish Share and expenses of office are split between Southill and Clifton. At the beginning the split was agreed as one third to Southill and two thirds to Clifton and has remained so since then.
There is no secretarial or office provision within the Parish, but in accordance with the agreement mentioned earlier, Southill pay one third of the Vicar’s expenses.
A Parish and Community Newsletter, entitled ‘Outlook’, is produced monthly. Advertising income is raised and is used to partially offset the production costs - the balance is split equally between the PCC and Southill Parish Council. The incumbent traditionally writes a ‘letter’ for inclusion on the front page of each edition and other Church information on duties and services is included. The Editor gives his services for free. There is also a pew sheet provided for each Sunday Service.
Strengths and Weaknesses.
We believe that a newcomer would find the following characteristics encouraging:
· Loyal, hardworking, flexible and committed members of the congregation.
· Beautiful building in a beautiful location
· Friendly community
· A Sunday school
· An organist for Sunday worship
Audio system in church together with a loop system
Tea and Coffee after Sunday Service
"Navigation" study group twice a month on 1st and 3rd Wdnesday lunchtime
Tuesday Teas each week in Church from 2.30-4 pm
Disabled access into church and toilets
· Bells in good working order
The use of the building by the Parish Council and the School
He or she may consider the following factors to be challenging:
· Scattered and ageing congregation
· Limited community activities attached to the church; no youth groups