Volunteers honoured for fundraising efforts to repair church damaged by illegal rave

Astrid Gillespie and Reverend Canon Paul Hamilton outside All Saints' Church in East Horndon, Essex

Astrid Gillespie and Reverend Canon Paul Hamilton outside All Saints' Church - Credit: Church Conservation Trust

Two volunteers who spearheaded a campaign to repair a historic Essex church after an illegal rave have been recognised with a national heritage award. 

Astrid Gillespie and Reverend Canon Paul Hamilton sprung into action after the illegal rave at All Saints' Church in East Horndon, near Brentwood, caused significant damage to the building. 

Essex Police seized equipment and made three arrests at the unlicensed New Year's Eve event, but a major clean-up operation was required after revellers trashed the Tudor church.  

The pair spoke with the media and launched a fundraising drive by advertising a Just Giving page via Facebook. 

Thorndon Park church hall illegal party

The aftermath of the illegal New Year's Eve rave - Credit: Essex Police

More than £22,000 was raised via the fundraising page, which allowed repairs to take place as well as some additional conservation improvements. 

Ms Gillespie and Reverend Canon Hamilton each received a Digital Heritage Hero Award for their fundraising efforts and were presented with an original hand painted sign by Joby Carter, from Carters Steam Fair.

The virtual awards ceremony included speakers Sir Laurie Magnus, chairman of Historic England, and the minister for digital and culture Caroline Dinenage MP. 

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

Ms Gillespie, from The Friends of All Saints’ Church, 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.

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"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.”

Peter Aiers, chief executive at The Churches Conservation Trust, said the pair's fundraising efforts were "exceptional". 

“Astrid and Paul are true heritage heroes," he said. 

"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.”