The Church Location
- There has been a church on this site at Southill since the early part of the 13th century. The first Rector was Peter de Topesfield in 1225 and the latest is Rev Caren Topley being the 64th incumbent.
- The Parish of Southill is a joint benefice with the Parish of Clifton - this has been the situation since 1994- and in 2021 the Benefice was joined by the Parish of Haynes . The three parishes are in the Shefford and Amptill Deanery under the Bishop of Bedford. The Bishop of Bedford leads the northern part of the Diocese of St Albans.
Latitude 52deg 02min N Longitude 0deg 20min W OS Ref 2422 514
Address All Saints Southill
Old Warden Road
Beds SG18 9LL
- Southill is situated in lovely countryside in Central Bedfordshire between the local market towns of Biggleswade and Shefford, which together provide the essential amenities. Each town has a Health Centre with associated medical practice, a selection of shops including supermarkets,
- public lending libraries, a variety of restaurants and schools catering for pupils aged between 4 and 18 years: there is a school in Southill for pupils aged 4+ to 8. Biggleswade also offers a leisure centre and indoor swimming pool. A regular bus service links Southill with both these towns and a half-hourly train service runs from Biggleswade to London (Kings Cross) . Road links are good with easy access to the A1.There are extensive walks in the local area, whilst not far away is the Headquarters of the RSPB which provides opportunities for nature study walks. Nearby is the Swiss Garden, a beautiful example of an early 19th century garden combining ornamental features and picturesque architecture, whilst the Shuttleworth Collection housed at Old Warden is unique. It is the world’s only exhibition of flying historic aircraft dating from 1909 up to World War II and just beyond. Local facilities are available for all major sports, both indoors and outdoors, and there are several golf courses nearby. The championship courses at Woburn are only a short drive away.Slightly further a-field, at some 10 miles distance lies the county town of Bedford which offers a better selection of shops and both a multi-screen cinema and theatre. One of the two local hospitals is situated in Bedford, the other is at Stevenage. The historic university city of Cambridge, which offers many cultural attractions, is some 25 miles away as also is Milton Keynes, renowned for its indoor shopping centre, theatre and the largest indoor ski centre in Great Britain.
- Southill Parish is geographically the largest in the Deanery, but sparsely populated. Much of the land is committed to farming, whilst Southill Park is extensively wooded. The Parish comprises three villages - Broom, the largest, Southill and Stanford - and the hamlet of Ireland which together cover an area of 2291 hectares. The population totals some 1250, of which about a fifth are retired people. The occupational mix is broad and although home ownership now predominates, a significant number of the approximately 520 houses are rented. All the Parish lies within both Southill Parish Council and Central Bedfordshire District Council.
- The only other place of worship within the Parish is a Strict Baptist Chapel in Southill. The Methodist and Roman Catholic churches are in Biggleswade and Shefford.
- Almost all the houses in Southill village are owned by the Southill Estate and provide rented accommodation for the villagers, some of whom work for the Estate or other local employers. There is a small Village Stores, with a tearoom, a Lower School which caters for up to 75 children in the first five years of schooling (4+ to 8+) and which has been assessed as good by an OFSTED Inspection Team, a refurbished Parish Hall which provides facilities for both intra and extra village activities, a well known public house and a cricket team which plays at one of the nicest grounds in Bedfordshire situated within Southill Park. A millennium wood was planted in 2000 to celebrate the event.
Broom village houses the majority of the population of the Parish in almost exclusively privately owned properties, most of which have been built in the last 50 - 55 years. Many of the residents commute to work. It has a village hall - also refurbished – which provides facilities for a wide variety of activities and a public house which is again well known within the local area, there are good opportunities for social interaction. The old gravel quarry between Broom and Upper Caldecote has been closed and following completion of the extraction process the restoration of the area provides a welcome additional recreational facility for the Parish and beyond.A second quarry is now in operation between Broom and Stanford.
Stanford and Ireland are much smaller centres of population and lack many of the amenities offered by both Southill and Broom, but Stanford has a thriving community playing field and also has a public house with rooms.
The Church Building
The Church, which is situated on the boundary of Southill Park, was at one time surrounded by estate workers cottages, but a decision taken in the early 19th Century moved the villagers away from the Estate and left the Church in a somewhat isolated location on the edge of the village. It is a simple, light and attractive building with interesting historical associations - the tomb of Rear Admiral Byng is contained with other family members in an attached columbarium - set in a pleasant and tranquil churchyard. Major modifications and restoration took place in the early 1800's when the pitched roof was replaced by a copper covered flat roof supported by a red brick wall and cloistral windows.
Over the past 35 years various restoration works have been undertaken including three major programmes. In 1992 a programme of work to the stonework of the Nave was completed at a cost of £20,000. In 1995 further repairs to the stonework of the tower were undertaken and completed at a cost of £57,500, whilst 2002 saw the end of work to re-roof the Chancel and North and South Aisles, repair internal ceilings and redecoration of some of the internal walls and ceilings of the church at a cost of £98,500. Affording these repairs was only possible by dint of receiving generous grants from English Heritage and other charitable organisations, supported by the efforts of the congregation.
Stonework repairs to the exterior of the building have been completed including extensive work on the tower. Further work has been undertakenoutside the church walls to improve the drainage of the surface water from the roof which was necessary to tackle the problem of rising damp. Work was undertaken to provide on site toilet facilities, suitable access for the disabled and additional storage space and adequate provision for the Sunday School. Protective metal screens have been added to the stained glass windows and a fire escape system has been added to the ringing chamber in the tower. A plumbed in kitchen facility based on folding cupboards has been installed enabling much better catering when refreshments are required. A complete new computer controlled heating system has been installed replacing a 60 year old oil fired boiler and recently the church electrical wiring system was replaced to meet the latest IEC standards. Also, through a generous donation, a audio system, including a loop for those with impaired hearing, was installed with four radio microphones and a CD player. The Church is floodlit and annual running costs are met by sponsorship which has proved very successful over the last 20 years. Grass cutting in the churchyard is done by a contractor and the PCC receives a grant from Southill Parish Council for 25% of the cost.
The Electoral Roll currently stands at 33 and the average weekly attendance is about 20. A Service is held each Sunday starting at 9.30am and currently the 1st and 3rd Sundays in the month are Morning Prayer Services, the 2nd Sunday of the month is an Order One (Traditional) service of holy communion: on the remaining Sunday an Order Two service of holy communion is provided. We currently have one member of the congregation as a Lay leader of Worship. During the year it is normal for baptismal services, weddings and funerals to take place and there are special services for Easter, Christingle, Harvest, Mothering Sunday and Remembrance Sunday.
- The Remembrance Service takes place at the village memorial.
- Two lay members of our Church had been responsible for marriage preparation for many years and lay participation is encouraged: nevertheless, there is a need for the churches ministry within the Parish to be extended particularly among young adults and children.
Being part of a joint Benefice with Clifton, and now with Haynes, has worked very well and given members of three congregations the opportunity to worship together at various times and to attend joint social occasions.
The PCC comprises 8 members with an age range of 20 to 80. Routine meetings are held quarterly in the Rectory at Clifton. Special meetings can be called as required and sub groups are formed as necessary.
There are three Lay Readers currently in the joint Benefice, Reader Robin Welsford, Reader Ruth Gray and Reader Peter Topley all who live in Clifton but often attend Southill. There are three Lay Leaders of Worship, Ryan Parker, Kathy Blackmore and Liz McCartney.
The Balance Sheet at the 31st December 2020 showed current assets of £17,681, of which £9002 was unrestricted, £7,760 was designated and £919 was restricted. The year showed a small surplus of £3,357. Christian Stewardship is practised and together with visitor’s donations raised £10,993, including a tax rebate of £2,559 during the year. Being a joint Benefice, the Parish Share and expenses of office are split between Southill, Clifton and Haynes.
There is no secretarial or office provision within the Parish, but in accordance with the agreement mentioned earlier, Southill pay a proportion of the Vicar’s expenses.
A Parish and Community Newsletter, entitled ‘OUTLOOK’, is produced monthly. Advertising income is raised and is used to partially offset the production costs - the balance is covered by Southill Parish Council. The incumbent traditionally writes a ‘letter’ for inclusion in each edition and other Church information on duties and services is included. The Editor gives his services for free. There is also a pew sheet provided for each Sunday Service.
The Church has been floodlit since the start of the new millenium and all the costs are paid for by donations. These donations are in memory of loved ones or to celebrate a special event such as birthdays and wedding anniversaries.
The Churchwarden - Colin McCartney
Colin has taken on the churchwarden role again for the second time but will be retiring in 2022.
His first time as churchwarden was from 1989 until 2003 and this second started in 2018.