The Earl & Countess of Wessex
The Earl & Countess of Wessex honoured the Devon Historic Churches Trust by supporting the charity as part of the Earl's 50th birthday tour of Wessex.
Firstly, The Earl & Countess visited Powderham Church to meet the congregation and support them in the challenges they face with maintaining and preserving this historic building which are typical of those facing all parish churches throughout the Diocese of Exeter and beyond. During the visit to St Clements, Lady Katherine Watney briefed them on the significant history of the church, not least its role in the Civil War, forming part of the siege of Powderham Castle. Hugh Harrison, a leading national expert on historic screens and woodwork, illustrated the particular beauty of the church screen and the need for significant work to be undertaken to ensure its survival. Andrew Johnson, one of Devon's most skilled stained glass window restorers then escorted Their Royal Highnesses round the church to inspect the works that had been recently completed with funding from the DHCT. After meeting the congregation they departed to the sound of bells pealing in pleasure at the significance of the visit.
The Earl & Countess of Wessex then attended an evening Reception at Powderham Castle by kind invitation of the Earl & Countess of Devon. This was a truly memorable occasion when over 200 guests gathered to meet Their Royal Highnesses in these glorious surroundings. Volunteers and supporters from all parts of Devon were formally presented and the guests were very privileged to meet the Royal couple as they mingled during the evening.
This significant event was given a delightful added zest with a recital by Paul Morgan (emeritus organist at Exeter Cathedral) on the newly restored castle organ and a warmly applauded choral programme performed by the girls' choir of Maynard School Exeter.
The evening, which was sponsored by Savills estate agents and supported by Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood fine art auctioneers, together with Louise Crossman Architects drew to a close in a spectacular manner with Their Royal Highnesses departing by helicopter from the park in front of Powderham Castle whilst guests waved farewell from the lawns.
The Trust is very appreciative of the time and interest shown by The Earl & Countess of Wessex both during the time they spent at the church and meeting the guests at the Reception afterwards. It was clear that the future of our parish churches and the volunteers that care for them was very highly valued by our Royal guests - as was the work of the Devon Historic Churches Trust.