Friends of Helmdon Churchyard

Helmdon Parish Church and Churchyard

Friends of Helmdon Churchyard - An Introduction

Conrad Woolley, Church Warden in 2003, wrote...

"Peace and tranquillity. That's what some visitors say about the Churchyard. Come on, Helmdonites, have you wandered up there recently?

You can follow the narrow, mown path between the Church and road double bend and you will come to the Garden of Rest where ashes are interred. You will find a seat where you can rest a moment, with the Church, Saturday House [now Helmdon House] and the ancient Great Yew tree ahead of you.

Walk on down past the newest graves and look over the valley, beyond the sheep and horses, towards Astwell and further, if the weather allows.

By now you are appreciating the wonder of all this creation - the span of age from the smallest insect to the largest yew. Where do you fit in? Leave this computer and take a walk up there in the air."

Who are Friends of Helmdon Churchyard?

The Friends of Helmdon Churchyard is an agency of the P.C.C. (Parochial Church Council) with its own chairman, secretary and convener.

Anyone who has an interest in the care of the burial ground is a member but we should like to know who you are! Please get in touch if you can support us, even if it is only from your armchair. We need you …..really! We hope that those of you who do wander into its peacefulness will appreciate the gradual improvements being made to show that we care.
Judy Cairns - Secretary

Friends of Helmdon Churchyard - News

Rex Jessett and Sue Lidgley

Presentation to Rex Jessett - 19 February 2017

On Friday 17th February a dozen people (members with partners) got together in the Greyhound Inn in Brackley to say thanks to Rex Jessett for all his work over many years in tending the churchyard and in maintaining the stone walls

Sue Lidgley presented Rex with a jigsaw which is one of his hobbies, and the PCC also gave him a card to thank him for his work.

Rex was accompanied by his wife, Ruth. He said we had not seen the last of him and hoped to compete again in the Plant and Produce Show. Other competitors will need to watch out!

Church Inscriptions Project Finished - posted 19 February 2017

A project to refresh and update the list of memorial inscriptions in the village has been completed. Every headstone in the churchyard at St Mary Magdalene, Helmdon has been recorded and the information put online (on

The old part of the churchyard was first recorded in 1997/98 but now this work has been updated to include all the burials in the past twenty years. A new plan has been made of the churchyard to show the location of the headstones.

The project has been a labour of love and has taken many, many hours of painstaking work, both in looking at old headstones and in going through the archive records matching names and dates. It is now a wonderful local history and genealogical resource.

Clear-up Of Churchyard - posted 13 October 2016

There will be clear-ups of the churchyard on Saturday 15 October at 10.a.m. and on Sunday 16th October at 2 p.m. Tools will be provided but you may prefer to bring your own. Rakes (and rakers) especially welcome on the Sunday.

Tidy-Up Session - posted 03 May 2016

The Friends of Helmdon Churchyard are holding a Tidy-up session this coming Saturday, 7th May, 10 am to 12. We desperately need more volunteers to help, now that Rex Jessett cannot do so much. Work involves mowing, strimming and light gardening. If you can give us a hand, even only for an hour please phone me or Sue Lidgley.

Judy Cairns

Graveyard Inscriptions - posted 01 April 2016

The graveyard inscriptions, first recorded in 1990 by Val Moir and a team of helpers, is currently being updated and a new map is being made. It will be printed on the website and a hard copy will be given to the church.

Clean-up Morning - posted 08 May 2014

The Friends of Helmdon Churchyard - Clean-up Morning - Saturday, 10th May from 10 a.m. If anyone would like to come along and help with mowing, strimming and gardening you will be very welcome.

Rex Jesset maintains the churchyard all through the year but would welcome anyone who could give him a hand more often than once a month, particularly mid-week. Please contact Judy Cairns if you are interested.

"Tidy-up" Morning - posted 02 May 2013

The Friends of Helmdon Churchyard will be holding a "tidy-up" morning from 10 am to noon on Saturday 18th May and would welcome anyone who would like to help with mowing, strimming and gardening. Please bring your own tools, strimmers and mowers if possible.

Please contact Sue Lidgley or just turn up on the day.

More Graves Revealed In The Churchyard - posted 09 April 2013

With the dreadful winter and spring we have been able to do very little in the churchyard, though with the cold weather it has remained tidy as the grass has not grown. Some of the overgrown laurel bushes in the oldest part have been cut back, revealing more graves.

Rex Jessett, we are glad to say, is restored to health and has been doing what he can. He has been invaluable to us over the past few years, rebuilding the stone wall on the east side and spending many hours keeping things tidy. The part of the wall between the churchyard and the old rectory, which fell down in the frosts, has been rebuilt by John Wilson.

Once things start growing we shall need the extra help of our volunteers who come every month from spring through to the autumn to mow, strim and garden. Anyone new who would like to volunteer will be very welcome. We will announce the date of the first "get together" once the weather improves. We would like to thank all those who donate their time so generously.

The churchyard is well loved in the community; a peaceful, beautiful place to visit even for those who have no family grave there.

Judy Cairns - Secretary

Our Beautiful Churchyard - posted 16 June 2011


  • Conrad Woolley - Chairman
  • Judy Cairns - Secretary
  • Sue Lidgley - Convenor

Visitors often comment on how beautiful our churchyard is and I think we would all agree. In addition to those who tend their loved ones' graves, there is a small group of volunteers who help to keep it tidy, cutting and strimming the grass and looking after the flower beds at the front of the church at a once a month group get-together on a Saturday morning. Ann Smith regularly mows the footpath and the lower part of the churchyard and the committee put in extra time. But it is Rex Jessett, who works there most days all through the year, who must take the greatest credit for keeping it all in order. During the winter and early spring he also rebuilt the long wall on the east side of the churchyard - a work of art.

The huge conifers against the west wall, between the churchyard and the old rectory, have had to be cut down as their roots were coming up in the old rectory's tennis court. This has opened up the view and that area now feels much lighter.

We need to remind dog walkers to keep their pets on a lead and clean up after them. It is offensive to find dog mess amongst the graves.

Our thanks go to all those who help with the maintenance of the churchyard and if anyone new would like to join in they would be very welcome. There is no commitment to come every month - you come when you can. Please email or phone me if you are interested.

Judy Cairns - Secretary

Report From Spring Talkabout 2010 - posted 29 April 2010

In spite of the cold winter, Rex Jessett has been working hard keeping the churchyard tidy and rebuilding the stone walls - a seemingly endless task as there are so many places where they have fallen down. The huge old pine tree had to be cut down as it was becoming dangerous, but in spite of a high wall of straw bales to cushion its fall, it still managed to bring down some of the wall, which Rex has mended. We would like to thank Andrew Pitt for his hard work last year, removing ivy from the walls, and also George Stubbs who went on mowing long after finishing his Duke of Edinburgh Award work. Ann Smith is greatly appreciated for regularly mowing the main path and lower part of the churchyard.

A new garden shed has been erected in one corner of the churchyard, leaving the original shed for church use, with more room for the bier, etc.

We hope the weather will improve soon and then we shall be glad to have the help of our band of volunteers who come and give a welcome hand with strimming, mowing and gardening, usually on the morning of the last Saturday of the spring, summer and autumn months. If any one new wishes to join us, please contact me.

Although the majority of dog walkers are conscientious, we are still having trouble with some people not picking up their dogs' mess in the churchyard. A fine of £1,000 can be incurred for this. It really is unpleasant to find it when visiting a loved one's grave or walking up to the church. Dogs should be kept on a lead at all times. We have a lovely churchyard; please show it the respect it deserves.

Judy Cairns - Secretary

Report March 2007 - posted 20 March 2010

Rex Jessett (following in the footsteps of the Branson brothers and Reg Batchelor who have in the past given considerable time and attention to work in the churchyard) has been busy all winter, tidying up, and repairing walls. With the aid of some willing helpers he has removed the ivy which was destroying a section of the wall by the road. The ivy trunks were as big as trees and it was a huge effort to get them out and move them to a place where they could be sawn up. During his clearing and cutting back of overgrown bushes he has revealed graves in the old part of the churchyard which have been hidden for years. We cannot say too often how grateful we are to Rex for his help. A big thank you, too, to Andy Pitts who cleared the ivy from all along the front wall from the horse chestnut tree to the gate.

We are grateful to our other volunteer helpers and look forward to commencing our monthly clean up sessions in the spring.

This report is going to be largely made up of expressions of gratitude as we would like to also say a very big thank you to the HYHOs who have given us the money to buy a badly needed new heavy duty strimmer. In the past we have only had second-hand ones which were always breaking down, so we really appreciate the generosity of the HYHOs, who contribute so much to village projects.

The millennium yew, provided by the Diocese and planted in the new area, is growing well, but will take hundreds of years to rival in size the ancient yew near the church. We would like to point out that trees and shrubs must not be planted in the churchyard without permission being obtained from the Archdeacon of the Diocese. The layout of the graveyard and also the design of gravestones is strictly regulated.

We look forward to the spring and summer when the churchyard really looks at its best and its beauty and serenity can be really appreciated not only by those visiting their love ones' graves, but also by those who walk through.

Judy Cairns - Secretary