The Churches Conservation Trust Review and Report
courtesy and copyright of The Churches Conservation Trust
Walter Hayes was the sort of man who would gaze down at the most unpromising fragment of mediaeval stone and announce: ‘I’ll tell you a thing about him’ in a voice so full of gossipy promise that he might have been reading from Hello! magazine. Of course he knew his Perpendicular from his Early English, and his Ecclesiologists from his Oxford Movement, and above all his Bible, Prayer Book and church history, but churches to him were pre-eminent places in which to read the stories of human beings, their triumphs and disasters.
He was a wonderful mixture of scholar, bibliophile, journalist, doting grandfather and tycoon, with apparently no disjunction between his different worlds. I am certain he was just the same with Henry Ford, a close friend for many years, as he was a faithful Trust key-holder or a member of staff. He told his business colleagues all about his family and – I don’t doubt – discussed cars with his granddaughters and stained glass with his book-dealers.
He was only Chairman of the Churches Conservation Trust for a year but served as a Trustee for eight years and in that time brought not only his great learning and wisdom to its deliberations but also an impish humour and sense of fun which irradiated the work.
In his year as Chairman he tackled essential administrative matters, such a pension restructuring and pay and grading reviews, so that I would have an organisation in apple-pie order when I succeeded him. But while I will be eternally grateful to him for that, everyone else will remember other things – his transformation of the Annual Review into an entrancing thing full of visual and intellectual delights, his marvellous letters produced in somewhat fitful transcripts, the growing piles of Polaroid snaps designed to remind him of specially good bits of churches but which tended to get a bit scrambled during the annual Trustee Tours.
Walter was a very serious man with an ebullient sense of humour and a passion for historic churches which he communicated effortlessly to all who came within range. He gave his time and his great expertise abundantly to the Trust and set it on the path to a modern and outward-looking future. His ashes have been laid to rest in the nave of St George’s, Esher, a Trust church with which he had a long and close association. Future generations of visitors to this lovely building will be reminded of a man to whom they, like us, owe a very great deal.