A Church and a Community Shop

While we were in the Museum of Power we picked up a leaflet about the local community shop in Langford. It’s housed in St. Giles’s church! A local lady entered a competition a few years ago answering the question, ‘If you had £10,000 for your local community, what would you do with it?’ Her answer was to open a community shop in her local church. She entered on the last day of the competition and won. When she was told she had won she had to go to the local vicar and tell him what she had done and ask if he was prepared to house a shop run by volunteers in his church. Luckily he said, ‘Yes’.

The shop was manned by a salty old dog with a long white beard and a hat with a feather in the front. It turned out he’d been playing the fiddle with the Morris Men when they played outside the Chequers pub about a week ago. He made us a cup of tea and welcomed us in. The shop is in what looked like the vestry, complete with cassock hung at the back (I presume it was the vicars as it didn’t have a price label on it). I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a selection in such a small place – anything from polenta to tapenade, shoe laces to chocolate moulds, mushroom ketchup to coconut milk (3 varieties as well as coconut cream). It was a veritable Aladdin’s cave.

While we shopped we were regaled with tales of dunking sponge fingers in champagne on a French submarine and how the Victorians had extended the Norman church and left evidence of what it had once looked like. Another customer came in and we looked up politely and said, ‘Hello’ and went back to shopping. For some reason I looked up again and realised I knew the lady and hadn’t seen her in years. We did the, ‘How lovely to see you’ and ‘It’s been years’ and ‘John’s having treatment’ (I didn’t ask) and caught up with each other to the amusement of Jock (the salty old dog).

The church itself is fascinating and we did The Grand Tour. It was the only Norman church to have two rounded ends to the building at one time. The Victorians extended it at one end to square it off and added another extension to one side and a tower. On the squared extension floor they marked the curve of the old wall with tiles. On the outside wall they left an open area to reveal the start of the curved wall. At the other end of the building they placed a glass panel in the curved wall revealing the Norman stone wall under the rendering. The crypt, we were assured, still had some space left and was opened at various times of the year for viewing.