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Church is reborn after renovation

After eight years, an ambitious restoration of St Peter’s Anglican Church in Chantilly, Oise, has given members a reborn church and a new appetite for the concerts and events which helped raise funds.

Work started in 2009 on the 1865 church and fund-raisers ranged from golf tournaments, an auction where the former chaplain offered 10 hours’ non-stop ironing, concerts from local artists and international orchestras, garden parties, cycle challenge, a gala event and a book on English horse racing.

St Peter’s is steeped in horse-racing history having been set up when Henri Duc D’Aumale, son of King Louis Philippe, sold land in 1860, for the Anglican community to build a church as thanks for their work in developing racing and training in Chantilly.

Trainers, jockeys and lads were brought over from the racing community in England and Chantilly is now well known worldwide for its horse racing.

The half a million euro restoration saw work on both exterior and interior with repairs to the roof and insulation, the interior floor replaced, underfloor heating, new lighting, replacement of a boundary wall, new drainage, disabled access and new stained glass windows.

Work started after Frédéric Nancel, Domaine de Chantilly head of events; former chaplain Nick Clarke and teacher and church member Julie Howse realised the extent of the repairs needed and looked at ways to raise funds.

With several hundred regular English speaking families with around 100 adults and children regular weekly church goers and Mr Nancel said: “Starting from zero, we formed a restoration committee of church members which was a mix from different European countries, the US, Australia, Africa and the Far East. It’s this cross section of talent and different skills that has been our creative strength throughout”.

One key donation came in a legacy from member Irene Sherwood, the former secretary to top French breeder and racehorse owner Marcel Boussac, who died in 2008 aged 102 and left her house to the church.

This covered the roofing and internal repairs and church members worked for years on other fund-raising events.

These included the Run or Dye charity event around the Chantilly racecourse and a cycle ride to Twickenham to mark the 150th anniversary of the church in 2010.

A book on the famous British racing families in the Chantilly area came about after Mr Nancel visited leading racehorse trainer Christiane “Criquette” Head, the former French champion trainer and sister of six-times champion jockey Freddy Head, who put him in touch with the late racing journalist and historian Michel Bouchet. The book, written in French  and priced at €50, had a publication of 900 and to date has sold around 500 with all profits  going to the restoration fund.

Mr Nancel said: “It’s been a great roller coster ride and team effort full of fun, energy and enthusiasm, to get where we are now with the church restoration near completion.”

St Peter’s has now entered a new era as Nick Clarke has moved on to a new post at Radipole and Melcome Regis Weymouth and Sarah Tillett was appointed this summer.

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