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Marketing the church

02 November 2006

JOHN BETJEMAN called St Mary’s in Stow "one of the most monumental and impressive of the pre-Conquest churches, and one of the most important". I’m told by its churchwarden, David Justham, that it is also regarded as the mother church of Lincoln Cathedral. The Saxon arches are huge, and even Pevsner gave it a clean bill of architectural authenticity.

But it stands in a village whose population is no more than 200, and the average Sunday congregation is 23. The roof leaks, the drainage, masonry, windows, and decoration all need attention, and, Mr Justham says, they "need £1.5 million to get the building shipshape". English Heritage and the Lottery Fund have promised them £104,000 to replace the lead roof, but the church needs to be better used and to attract more visitors.

So enter four marketing students from Lincoln University. Jessica Buckthorp, Kate Evans, Phillippa Glenn, and Vicki Clark have been exploring ways of bringing more of their contemporaries to this church that dates back to at least AD 975, and possibly to a wooden Saxon church before that. The four have talked not only to students in their own university, but also to those at Nottingham, Hull, and Sheffield to see what might attract the history, archaeology, and architecture students in particular to see the church as a useful facility.

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