John Betjeman and Yehudi Menuhin are heading a £6,500 appeal to save the only historic building on the South Oxhey estate – the Oxhey Chapel builtin the reign of James I on the site of a Saxon monastery.
Last winter the roof was damaged by snow,and when it was inspected, it was found that it was also riddled with woodworm.
But underneath the high tiled roof was found an even older roof, once covered with lead. It was then decided that when restoration work was carried out, the original roof should be rebuilt. Two remarkable coincidences led the Vicar of All Saints South Oxhey,the Rev Edward Charles, to write to Mr. Betjeman and Mr. Menuhin to ask them to add their names to the list of signatories to the appeal.
Poet and amateur antiquarian Mr.Betjeman, who lives in Smithfield, heard that his tobacconist was moving to South Oxhey. He advised him to visit the chapel, which he remembered was set in open fields and woodland.
When he heard of this the Vicar wrote explaining that the chapel was now in the centre of a large housing estate and at the same time asked if Mr.Betjeman woud be prepared to head an appeal to save the chapel.
Mr. Menuhin was approached when it was found that the beautiful, weathered 17th century tiles from the newer roof were being used to restore the violinist’s home in Highgate. Until September this year the chapel was owned by the Blackwell estate. If sufficient money is raised it is hoped that with proper heating and lighting it can again be used for church services, discussions and as a centre for all Christians in the area.
Among the 29 signatories to the appeal are local clergy, members of local councils, Mr. Gilbert Longden M.P. and head teachers from schools on the estate. Copies of the appeal have been distributed to every house in the parish.