Volunteers receive national heritage award for saving party-damaged church

Astrid Gillespie and Rev Canon Paul Hamilton outside All Saints, East Horndon

Astrid Gillespie and Rev Canon Paul Hamilton outside All Saints', East Horndon - Credit: Church Conservation Trust

Two volunteers who spearheaded a campaign to repair a Brentwood church after an illegal rave have been recognised for their exceptional service to the UK’s heritage sector.

The Digital Heritage Hero Award celebrates Astrid Gillespie and Rev Canon Paul Hamilton’s fundraising efforts in response to an illegal rave at All Saints’ Church in East Horndon. 

All Saints, East Horndon after the rave

The Tudor church suffered thousands of pounds worth of damage in the rave - Credit: Ricci Fothergill

The Tudor church was hijacked for a 2021 New Year's Eve rave which inflicted thousands of pounds worth of damage and which resulted in a £10,000 fine for an organiser.

Astrid and Paul set up a JustGiving page and raised £22,000 in a matter of days - smashing the original target of £2,000 which they estimated would cover the damage.

Sponsored by specialist heritage insurer Ecclesiastical and now in its 11th year, the 11th annual Heritage Heroes Awards is the Heritage Alliance’s celebration of the outstanding contribution Britain’s heritage volunteers make to society.

It believed more than 300 revellers were partying in the Tudor church

It is believed more than 300 revellers were partying in the Tudor church - Credit: Met Police

The virtual awards ceremony coincided with an event with speakers including chair of Historic England Sir Laurie Magnus and minister for digital and culture, MP Caroline Dinenage.

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Astrid, from the Friends of All Saints’ Church volunteer group, said: “It means so much to all of us from the Friends of All Saints’ to have been given this award and to have the support of the Heritage Alliance.

"We have been overwhelmed with the love and support from everyone who has been involved in helping us to raise money for us to repair the damage at the church.”

Essex, UK. 5th January 2021. Inside the 500 year old All Saints Church in East Horndon, Essex, which

The clean up took days and the damage cost around £2,000 - Credit: Ricci Fothergill

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Peter Aiers, chief executive at the Churches Conservation Trust, said: “Astrid and Paul are true heritage heroes.

"The Friends of All Saints’ Church have always done a great job in bringing the local community together to support this isolated church building, however, what they achieved in the aftermath of an illegal rave on New Year’s Eve was exceptional.

"Their work released the love and affection people have for church buildings. We are eternally grateful for the positive impact that their work has had for the church and the local community.”

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