Downside’s classic car appeal

Downside Abbey and School invites classic cars and visitors to raise money for a new roof for the abbey

Owners of classic cars are being invited to a new Concours d’Elegance to be held at the famous Downside Abbey and School at Stratton on the Fosse in Somerset on Sunday 4th May at midday.

Entry for the owners of cars and their passengers is free, but the abbot of the school and abbey is hoping that hundreds of people will turn out to view the cars and help raise money for Downside Abbey Restoration Appeal, which is raising funds for the roof of the abbey.

Already more than 50 cars have signed up to the event and many more are expected. Downside is inviting the owners of vintage and classic cars, in any condition, to the Concours.

Tim Mercer, the organiser, said: “This is not just about expensive cars that have been fully restored, it is about any vehicle from a Morris Minor to a Rolls Royce, which the owner has lovingly restored or is working on.”

The event is open to all vintage and classic vehicles up to 1984 but exceptions may be made at the discretion of the organisers. The Abbot’s Choice class is for any other interesting and unusual vehicles.

There will be a prize for each class and an overall winner being awarded the ‘Abbots Cup’ by the abbot, Dom Aidan Bellinger.

Among those signed up is an extremely rare Squire sports car. The car was designed by former pupil Adrian Squire when he was at the school in the 1920s and will be one of the many highlights of the event, including a talk about his car design by the well-known motoring historian and Squire specialist Jonathan Wood.

“We have been staggered at the response from classic car owners,” said Tim Mercer. “There are cars coming from all over the country and two Allards coming from Malta.”

He added: “It should be a great day out for the public and we are charging just £5 for individual entry and £15 for a family of two adults and two children. We want to make this an affordable day out for everyone that will help us raise money for the roof and one that we can repeat on an annual basis.”

The abbot said: “Downside Abbey and School has been in celebratory mood as we look back 200 years in Stratton on the Fosse. A whole series of events has been arranged including concerts, dinners and of course the first Concours d’Elegance which will be staged on our playing fields and which we hope will raise a considerable sum for our restoration appeal.”

One of the great masterpieces of the Gothic Revival, the Abbey Church was built by the monks of Downside between 1879 and 1925 with the tower completed in 1938. The building is now in need of a new roof, repairs to some of the stained glass windows, cleaning and restoration of some of the stone work as well as modern energy efficient systems for heat and light. At current prices this will cost in the region of £4 million. Approximately£400,000 has been raised so far.

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