St. Mary the Virgin Church service highlights Heathrow concerns

May 25, 2008 at 4:12 pm | Posted in Heathrow airport | 7 Comments
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St. Mary the Virgin Church in Harmondsworth Village on 8 April 2008 by JL2003

Photo of St. Mary the Virgin Church in Harmondsworth Village on 8 April 2008 by JL2003

This evening, Sunday 25 May 2008, there was a Service of Hope in the ancient church of St. Mary the Virgin in Harmondsworth village near Sipson.  Built in 1067, the church is a listed building, and will be left standing when nearby homes are demolished … if Heathrow expansion goes ahead.  Standing room was at a premium for the special service highlighting the plight of this ancient community.

I grew up in a parish that was mentioned in the Doomsday Book and do have a slight appreciation, or at least an awareness, of the significance of a church to a community when these holy places of worship were planned and constructed nearly one thousand years ago.

Every week I see and hear aircraft over St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.  Flying directly overhead, as they do several times during a brief sermon, the noise from aeroplanes is especially noticeable during the quieter parts of a church service, such as the sermon and prayers, but can also be heard during the introduction to hymns and psalms.  At such times, I often think the founders  and departed souls of this holy place and Most Noble Order would be turning in their graves if they could have foreseen the noise pollution it now suffers from many times each hour.  If only they were to return (!) and witness how the spiritual home of The Most Noble Order of the Garter is abused to such an extent by air traffic noise, we would have a right royal spiritual rebellion on our hands!  And this situation I am describing is as things stand before the proposed expansion of Heathrow airport should go ahead … oh, dear.

Considering the church of St. Mary the Virgin, it is a sad reflection of our time that the British Government is intent on destroying a community, while apparently intending to leave a structure (representing the destroyed heart of that community) intact—at least for a little while.

Whatever happened to common sense, let alone compassion?




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  1. Moving tribute to the Church, I think we are seeing the end of new runways, keep that oil price up and planes will price themselves out of the market, they are doing that as we speak, and we will all end up crab hunting in the shallows of Chesil beach, back to another reality. Long live Sipson I say

  2. Long live Sipson, indeed!
    Yes, several airlines are struggling already, but the impact of rising oil prices will hurt all pockets and strata of the global economy. There was a round-up of possibilities in an article by Geoffrey Lean in the Green Living section of yesterday’s Independent on Sunday, 25 May 2008, that covered the breadth of this topic (though not in depth) if you are interested:

    Oil: A global crisis

    It includes this summary of the impact of oil prices on aviation:


    Oil provides 95 per cent of the energy used in transport, so this will be hit hard and soon. People are likely to go on using their cars, but airlines are expected to be the first to suffer. On Thursday, British Airways’ chief executive Willie Walsh declared that the era of cheap flights was over, suggesting that those environmentalists who have made them their main target for combating climate change may have been wasting their breath.
    At least three carriers have already gone bust this year. Last week, American Airlines said it was cutting routes, laying off staff, and charging US passengers $15 to check in a bag because of a $3bn rise in its fuel bills. Even Michael O’Leary, chief executive of Ryanair, says the oil price is “really hurting”. On Thursday, Credit Suisse analysts said his company would slip into the red if oil prices rose just a little more, to $140 a barrel.

    P.S. Eco-warriors please note: business goals are necessarily driven by profits, and Willie Walsh pulls no punches scorning hot (green) air. Compassion does not figure in business models, whether it is expressed as concern for the environment or any other non-profit example of care for fellow men. That does not mean any fight for improved climate action is futile, it just means that arguments need to be more understanding and persuasive for business, rather than hectoring 😉
    Compassion is something that we all need, but we should not expect business to reflect that in its goals. I do think the Government needs to play a role, but only if it is a helpful one (otherwise it should stand well back!) and the Department for Transport should not be devoted to defending ill-considered business desires at the expense of protecting individuals’ health and sanity (as it unfortunately tends to do, and certainly is doing in the case of Heathrow expansion).

  3. First and foremost, the UK authorities ought to be ashamed for expanding the absolute worst airport on the planet. I usually travel out of Los Angeles, which has the second worst airport on the planet, and if I am connecting through Heathrow, then disaster is assured. I don’t think my luggage has ever made it through with me going that route.

    It seems as if the UK is hellbent on destroying its own infrastructure as the US is. Heahtrow is a privatized entity, and the Spanish company that owns it merely wants to squeeze more profits out of the monopoly that they obtained from the British taxpayer.

    All Brits have to do is to be as stupid as Americans (and Argentinians) and have a firesale on the critical infrastructure that supports their economy, and they will assure that they will become economically subservient to the continent. There is a very good reason why Germany and Japan are doing so well economically. They provide excellent infrastructure to businesses, and they provide a regulatory regime that encourages businesses to do more business. They do not allow monopolies to exploit people. Monopoly exploitation is a stupid and awful business model.

    Will Brits and Americans ever get this?

    If there was any shred of rationality left in British policy making, then instead of expanding a lousy airport, they would be building a new one. Germany is not expanding Frankfurt’s airport. They are creating new hubs in Duesseldorf, Berlin and Munich, and, of course, they assure that all these hubs are well connected via rail. This is the direction the UK must take.

    Privatization of infrastructure is a stupid idea. The so called “capitalists” that create monopolies strictly for the purpose of exploiting people are going to undo the economies of the US and the UK. Americans and the Brits allow this to happen at their own peril.

  4. Is this church part of the Church of England?

  5. Yes, Barry, Church of England records for Harmondsworth give details as:
    Church HARMONDSWORTH (St Mary the Virgin)
    Diocese LONDON
    Deanery Hillingdon
    Benefice HARMONDSWORTH (St Mary the Virgin)

  6. My 82 year old husband keeps saying ‘Why don’t they do more towards vertical take-off planes then they wouldn’t need to expand Heathrow airport. It should never have been put where it is in the first place — it was all done by a Government fiddle at the time. Folks got letters telling they had to get out asap. This is not a new thing, I have mention of it in a 1950s book that Sipson, Harlington and Harmondsworth would be in trouble when the airport was expanded. The folks who live in the threatened villages should not have to have all this worry about losing their homes……..and as for the beautiful churches and other historical – places the whole thing is dreadful. Our son lives on the Hayes/Harlington border, he cannot afford to move as he is unemployed and not likely to get another job as he is 50.

  7. Edward Culver, my 8th great grandfather, was rector of St. Mary’s, Harmondsworth. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to be able to actually find it and visit it in 1984, five years before I was ordained a priest myself. At that time we had a delightful cup of tea with the Vicar and his wife. It was such a thrill for me to be there; to be able to step into the history of the entire place, especially knowing my connections and vocation.

    I hope that nothing will disturb this wonderful piece of history.

    The Rev. Virginia L. Bennett
    St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church
    Edwardsville, Illinois

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