St Thomas Church Cupola Appeal

Christmas Tree Festival to launch

St Thomas Cupola Appeal


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Festival of Christmas Trees and switching on of the Christmas Lights

A magical Festival of Christmas Trees is being held in St Thomas Church Lymington throughout the weekend Friday 27 to Monday 30 November 2015, to coincide with the switching on of the Christmas Lights in Lymington on Friday evening. The Festival is the beginning of a major fundraising campaign for St Thomas Church.




St Thomas Church Appeal

View of St Thomas Church from the High Street

The recently formed Friends of St Thomas Church in Lymington are mounting an enormous fundraising campaign to renovate Lymington’s most famous and visible historic monument.


The elegant form of St Thomas Church has for many centuries given pleasure to all who have lived in and loved Lymington. In fact the beautiful church cupola forming the central backdrop to many photos taken towards the western sky from further down the High Street, is probably THE iconic image of Lymington in the New Forest.





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Scaffolding erected around the church tower at St Thomas Church

The Friends of St Thomas Church

The Friends of St Thomas Church group has formed relatively recently. It’s not a church group as such, but rather a group of individuals who have come together to help share the responsibility for maintenance of the FABRIC of the building beyond the worshipping community. 


Chairman Daphne Johnston together with her team of like minded colleagues all care passionately that this very special architectural feature of Lymington should be saved. And with a repair bill up to £100,000 having been mentioned, this campaign is going to require clear thinking and capable, focused and sustained effort.


Daphne hopes the Friends will exist for many years, not just for one appeal, as is the case with other historic buildings.


It's also important to point out at this point that the Church of England is not in a position to come to the rescue of individual churches. So it’s all down to the fundraising.



Background to St Thomas Cupola AppealThe mechanics of taking down the weathervane


In February 2014 the severe storms which damaged Hurst Spit and the Marine Cafe in Milford, also caused the shaft of the Weathervane on the top of the Cupola to be bent.


(For explanation of the word "Cupola" - see end of article!)

Many people in the town were worried it would fall, although in fact there was no danger of this.


Eventually, in May of this year it was possible to erect scaffolding to lift the Weathervane down.


This afforded the opportunity to examine the Cupola with a view to routine maintenance and painting - which was expected to be a straightforward job.


It was at this point that the proverbial can of worms was opened, as the Cupola was found to be in a very serious state of disrepair.




St Thomas Church Cupola Damage

 The Cupola is supported by eight structures known as legs.  At first it was thought that just one of these legs was rotten, but it was then realised that the damage was far greater, and in fact it’s now known that four of the legs will need to be completely replaced. Which is an enormously complex job because the structure is so heavy.


So next it is necessary to establish how to support the structure while the work is carried out.


And with a number of unknown factors in the scenario, that’s why it’s not yet possible to put a firm figure on the cost of repair and restoration.


In addition St Thomas Church is a listed building, so as well as meeting all the Church regulations regarding repairs it will be necessary to comply with Listed Buildings regulations. So whilst all the investigations and permissions are being carried out, the scaffolding will remain in place - probably until the spring when it is hoped that the work can start, providing the funds can be raised!



St Thomas Church cupola damage


christmas-tree-festival-st-thomas-jane-thurs1.jpg - 149.51 kbFestival of Christmas Trees in an Enchanted Forest: 27 – 29 November 2015


The Festival of Christmas Trees runs throughout the weekend from Friday to Monday inclusive. For four days from 10 am Friday 27 through to 5pm Monday November, St Thomas Church will be filled with an Enchanted Christmas Forest of fifty real Christmas trees. Each tree is between three and six feet tall, and decorated by its sponsor “owner” in their chosen themes and colours to entertain and engage all the local people and holiday makers who it is hoped will visit the church during the long weekend.


Fifty trees should also create a wonderful pine aroma - so the church will not only look like a forest but smell like one too!


The Festival opens at 10 am on Friday with the Robins Choir from Lymington Infant School, after which visitors can pop in any time during the day to see the display – refreshments will be available too.


On Saturday the Cantara Ladies Choir will sing in the morning, and visitors are again welcome throughout the day which will finish with a Festival of Song, a concert by Milford Musicale which includes songs from the shows.


After the Festival finishes on Monday, sponsors can either take their tree away or enter it in a silent auction and either keep the money for their own charitable cause or donate it to the Cupola Appeal.


Local businesses and organisations lending their support

A community wide mix of local schools, uniform groups, charities, businesses and individuals are supporting the Festival by paying to decorate a tree each in their own style. All monies raised will go towards the St Thomas Cupola Appeal, and it’s hoped that word of the Appeal will then spread far and wide and gather many more supporters.


Virtual Tour of the Christmas Tree Festival will keep it alive!


A Virtual Tour of the Christmas Tree Festival will be an enduring record of the weekend long after the last pine needle has been picked up. This tour is being photographed to promote the St Thomas Cupola Appeal courtesy of Bartley Marketing (which owns and John Carratt, Google Street View Trusted Photographer.


Further Reading!  What is a Cupola?!

From Wikipedia:  In architecture, a cupola /ˈkjuːpələ/ is a small, most often dome-like, structure on top of a building. Often used to provide a lookout or to admit light and air, it usually crowns a larger roof or dome.


There is a bell in the St Thomas cupola and we understand this is heard when the clock chimes. There are other bells within the tower which are rung on Sunday morning and for weddings etc.


Some History of St Thomas Cupola

A search of the archives of the church has found a document which suggests that the cupola
structure may have been installed sometime around 1742.


"From time to time one hears it said that the Cupola on our Parish Church

tower, formerly adorned the old Town Hall which, until 1858, stood in the
middle of the High Street. The illustration facing p. 105 of Edward King’s
“Old Times Revisited” shows the Town Hall with a Cupola similar to that now
on the church tower.
A view of the church, said to be dated about 1796, is reproduced at p. 16 of
Edward King’s book and is also to be found hanging in our Sacristy. The
picture shows the Cupola on the tower. It therefore seems impossible that
the tower Cupola could ever have been on the old Town Hall.
“Notes on the Parish Church, Lymington” by the Rev. Charles Bostock and
Edward Hapgood appeared in 1912. This work reproduces entries from the
Churchwardens’ accounts. On p. 3 we find that in 1696 a Mr. Vale paid
£3-6-4d for “glaiseing and painting the steeple”; the first meaning of
“steeple” in the OED is “tower” and I think this entry must refer to the tower
without the Cupola. On p. 61 we find that in 1741/42 there was paid 2/6d
“for a tarpaulin and fixing him on the Scuddle upon the Tower”. The authors
add a note, “scuddle – cupola”. Even today one cannot imagine covering the
Cupola with a tarpaulin; “scuddle” must be the local 18th century equivalent
for the modern “scuttle” which means “an opening in the roof, floor, wall of a
building closed with a shutter or lid; a trap-door (OED).
It therefore seems quite likely that an opening either already existed or was
made in the roof of the tower and that it was temporarily closed in 1741/42
with a tarpaulin possibly while the Cupola was being erected. There is no
reference in the Accounts to the cost of the Cupola but, in the same year,
Obadiah Newell, one of the Churchwardens, was paid his bill of £34-0-8½d,
a considerable sum in those days. That Obadiah was a carpenter is evident
from the 1738 Account where he is paid some £27 for “carpenters work and
materials in and about the church”. His later bill for £34-0-8½ no longer
exists but it may have represented the cost of the Cupola. The panels of the
structure supporting the Cupola have recently been renewed but the
framework is original; I have searched unsuccessfully for a date carved in the
framework, but I am still hoping to find evidence in support of my theory
that Obadiah Newell built the Cupola in 1741/42."

10th December 1982



Main Article by 23 November 2015



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