Twigworth is still bruised from Tewkesbury Borough’s Council’s single-minded pursuit to build hundreds of new houses here which led to their infamous massaging of the flood evidence. And now our church has been left untended and unloved. Church services ended at the beginning of 2020. No one can argue with that. Attendance is too low. But the building remains precious to many of us, who have long associations and family members laid to rest in the churchyard. The Gloucestershire Diocese is now in charge, and despite a fair few requests from us in the village the upkeep of gutters and external walls continues to be overlooked. This long-term neglect only fuels rumours that the powers in charge have demolition in mind, although the local clergy have denied this is the case.
Here we are, a village about to increase in size more than threefold, with many more houses looming after that, and its church is being let go, the one building we share of any history and heritage. At the closing ceremony in December one resident told me she had been christened in the church, married there, and buried her father there. Heritage is not an empty word.
Funding support was ruled out by Tewkesbury Borough Council (Section 106 funding is given to communities where there are substantial new developments). Instead the money was allocated for a sports building to serve the community that hasn’t arrived yet. We guess this was a deal the Council did with the developers. Certainly no one consulted people in the village. And communication with the Parish Church Committee has left much to be desired. It seems there was a critical point some years ago when decisions about funding were made without any reference to local people with long-term commitments to Twigworth. Even though one or two Borough Council officers have been helpful with advice in the past weeks, I don’t think it’s inaccurate to say that in recent years this village has been treated altogether shabbily on a number of different levels.
However, we are lucky to have Longford’s support, a village with its own history of flood troubles and controversial development. St Matthew’s is Longford’s parish church too. We are so grateful to Longford’s Alistair Brown, whose son Ben’s funeral happened here only a year before the church was closed. Alistair gives much of his time every week to looking after the churchyard.
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