End Of The Begining (Part 12)

Martin & Mandy

If I dig deep in my computer I find pieces of email I sent dated July 2007 enquiring about St Bartholomew’s, it took until February 2008 to agree a sale subject to planning permission being granted and, since the planning decision was published by Hertfordshire Council at the end of July 2010, that makes three years by my reckoning to get from passing interest to approved planning application and sale, the end of the beginning.

Some number of weeks ago we submitted our plans to Hertfordshire Council planning department and the clock started ticking. We were reasonably confident that all the consultative bodies would approve of what we are doing - we had spent a large part of the three years working and consulting with them to make sure that was the case. Oddly enough Buntingford council is the one consultative body who can only make a recommendation rather than outright reject the plans, but to Mandy and I this body is the one that actually counts. Once we are finished we want to live in a place that accepts us and supports what we have done. We have always found the people we talk to up at the church to be very supportive and encouraging, which has kept us going. We turn up for the Summer Fete - as we have done for the last three years, and check the council notice board - the planning meeting is advertised on there and we see that the normal half hour meeting has been extended to a full hour, and there’s only one item on the agenda, and that’s us! Gulp ... still - we’ve come a long way - can’t stop now.

So the day of the Buntingford Planning meeting arrives and we enter the council chamber for the second time. Various people arrive, all of whom we know are supportive of our application, including some Friends of Layston, which is most reassuring, and eventually there is a grand total of nine members of the public, but surprisingly, no members of the press. The meeting starts and the minutes from the previous meeting are signed off then we are straight into the main performance, one Councillor expresses an interest and leaves the room. The chairman confirms that they had received no objections to the plans we have submitted but they had received three emailed letters of support. He then asks if any member of the public present has any objections they wish to air and deathly silence falls upon the meeting. Another Councillor then stands up to speak and proposes a motion to approve the plans; this was duly seconded, put to the vote and carried unanimously. A gent from the Civic Society asked to speak, and complemented us on our archeological research and encouraged us to continue. The question “Any other business?” was asked and when there was no reply the meeting was closed - all in under 8 minutes!!

Published Version


For us this marks a clear stage in the whole process, the end of the beginning, ahead of us are certainly a number of years work to restore St Bartholomew’s to it’s former beauty and I know this will involve many different skilled craftsman and professionals as they uncover it’s history and help us provide a new and sustainable future for the building.

In the mean time we plan to run another open day for anybody who’s not yet had a chance to see either the plans or the inside of the Chancel, or anyone who just wants to do a repeat visit! This will be on Sunday 26th September between 11am and 3pm.

One odd thing that happened recently as a result of the web site we have been running was a random piece of email from an antiques dealer in South London. He had come across an unsigned water colour of ‘Laiston Church’ dated July 24th 1863.


It came with another pencil drawing of Eastwick Church dated 1853 that was signed by ‘Rantwell’ or possibly ‘Kantwell’.... If anybody recognises the picture, the name, or has any further knowledge about the artist, then we would love to hear about it from them.

Published Version

What comes next? The next tangible thing that will happen is the church will be cloaked in scaffold and a security fence placed around it. This will not be pretty I’m afraid, but the site is a target for after dark visitors and vandals still, and for us to complete the restoration assessment we need to be able to clamber over the outside of the building, which means we have to secure the site to prevent accidents - the “Health & Safety” officers would have a fit otherwise! We also need to produce a historic building survey, a nature survey and some confirmation of the structural state of the building in order to satisfy the planning conditions before the real work can start. In the course of all this we expect to uncover yet more history, having said that, Nelson is going to be hard to top, but watch this space for updates.

Up to now our open days have been in the chancel, during the restoration process we hope to be able to continue with open days in other areas as the work progresses, allowing people to see what’s happening and keep you all informed as we uncover more of what looks likely to be the interesting past of the Church at Layston.