Waltham Abbey Town Partnership

Committed to the enhancement of Waltham Abbey for the benefit of residents, businesses and visitors.


Minutes of the WATP Steering Committee Virtual Meeting

Tuesday December 14th. 9.15am (via Zoom link)

Present Cllr. H.Kane, T.O’Connor, D.Bensted,R.Walters Dr.G.Hooper, M.Horton, S.Smith, J.Law, M.Boyce, D.Haslam, P.Clegg T.Gurnett, C.Simpson, P.Messenger(arr.9.55am)

Apologies D.Evans, B.Elliott

Chair: Paul Violet

Minutes taken by Paula Violet

Paul welcomed  Geoff Hooper, the Vice Chairman of the Gunpowder Mills. He thanked him for attending the meeting and thanked Cllr. Kane for inviting him.

Request to add an AOB. There were no requests.

Minutes of the last meeting were agreed, there were no Matters Arising that were not on the Agenda

Waltham Abbey Church   The Abbey Church is open on Wednesdays from after the 10.30 service until 4pm, on Fridays and Saturdays from 10am until 4pm and on Sundays from 12 noon until 4pm; the Friends’ shop is also open at these times. There are weekly services at 8.30 and 10.30am on Sundays and 10.30am on Wednesdays. In line with the Government’s Plan B, face coverings are mandatory again in the church for services and visits, though in other respects the management of services is currently unaltered.

The Church was very pleased to be open and part of the community celebrations on the evening of the Cavalcade of Light. We also put on our first Christmas Tree Festival which featured an array of trees sponsored by church and community organisations and town businesses.

Christmas services are as follows: Sunday 19th, the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols, 6.30pm; Christmas Eve, Crib Service at 3pm and Midnight Mass at 11pm; Christmas Day, Parish Eucharist for Christmas Day at 10.30am. In the interests of safety, the number of attendees at the Nine Lessons and Carols and Midnight Mass will be limited and places should be ordered in advance via Eventbrite, which will make it much easier to sign attendees in as they arrive. If you aren’t able to access Eventbrite, then please contact the Churchwardens via the Parish Office. If the number of those attending should change, please make sure to let the church know. The Eventbrite details are below.

A very happy Christmas to Town Partnership colleagues!

Sub Committee and linked Groups

Museum A decision has been taken to have an early Christmas closure at the Museum. It will be closed from Monday December 20th  and will re-open on Tuesday January 4th. This week is the last chance to see the Games Exhibition.  During the evening of the Cavalcade the Museum was open with entertainment in the Garden and they were grateful to be joined by Cllr.H.Kane. 300 people attended.

Father Christmas was popular during the Christmas Market event, and this too was well attended.

A response with permission to submit an application for a Bid of £500,000k has been agreed by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. This is for a project, in conjunction with LVRP, for the repair and refurbishment of key monuments in Abbey Gardens.

Tony has received notification of the availability of funding, from The Arts Council,  for Community Groups to have arts and Culture events around next year’s Jubilee celebrations. The award will be in the region of £10k with the portal opening in January. Successful bidders with be notified by April.

Royal Gunpowder Mills   (Report from G. Hooper)

The last two years have been very difficult ones for the Royal Gunpowder Mills. March 2020 saw us going into lockdown, and the loss of income from visitors through the gates meant that we had to reduce our staffing from nine to four, and they were part time, furloughed for the rest of the time.

We saw the resignation of our Chair Jenny Freeman and our Chief Officer Stella Morris. The mothballed site was run by a Management Team comprising two members of staff and three trustees. It was not all bad news; towards the end of 2020 we were awarded £100K by the National Lottery for much needed repair work to the site, and this was all spent by March 2021. That year started badly with the death through COVID of our then Chair David Sims during what was the third period of national lockdown.

As the restrictions lifted gradually in the spring and summer of 2021, we opened up the site in a very limited way to the visiting public, first of all just outdoor spaces, then a few indoor locations where there was adequate ventilation and social distancing was possible. This was just on a few Sundays, and as only a small part of the visitor attraction was open, we made admission free. We struggled with even that as our number of volunteers, on whom we are entirely dependent, has gone down markedly for a variety of very understandable reasons.

So, what of next year? We see that very much as a ramp-up year; trying to get back to a pre-COVID level of operation by the end of the year. Bearing in mind what I have said, we are going to limit the visitor offering and try to do a few things very well and accept that some things will not re-open until 2023. We are going to have a concerted drive to bring in and bring on new volunteers to make good our shortfall in numbers. As visitor numbers, and hence income, improve, we hope to hire some additional staff. All of this will of course depend on how COVID pans out; we will just have to wait and see.

So, I have two messages for the Waltham Abbey Town Partnership;

Firstly, that we are very much back in business for 2022, so please help us publicise that fact.

Secondly anything that you can do to spread the message that we really need more volunteers as a matter of priority would be appreciated.

Finally, my thanks to Cllr Helen Kane for her support to us.

Cllr. Kane commented that she is impressed with the new Committee and will support them as much as possible, and we must promote the Gunpowder Mills as much as possible.

Tony asked if links with the Mills could be re-established as the Museum had welcomed and appreciated this in the past.

WA  Council The Council are focusing more Community based events. The event for this month had to be cancelled due to ill health. Staff are combining working from home and in the Office to reduce the numbers in the Office at any one day.

LVRP A reminder of the Wassailing Event on Saturday January 8th. 3pm -5.30pm. in the Abbey gardens Orchard. Food and drink will be available. There will be the blessing of the trees, Dancing by the Morris Men and the Mummers Play.

Tourism The November meeting had to be aborted due to a problem with emails.  The next meeting is due on Thursday Dec. 16th. 2pm via Zoom. The problem was raised that people find access to Zoom difficult without a direct link. Paul said he would rectify this for the next meeting.

U3A No report available.

Historical Society Paula Lofting, an author who writes Historical novels will be visiting the Historical Society in 2022.

Town Twinning Meetings have been difficult, but it would be good to have some form of meeting in 2022. We have received Christmas Greetings from Germany. Their Association has had a change of personnel. Bernhard has resigned as Chairman due to ill health. Heinze Huppe is now Chairman with Manfred as the Deputy. They were disappointed to have missed the Cavalcade and the Memorial Service for Norma Green which had been planned to coincide with their visit.

Town Centre Update: Meetings have taken place regarding the Parklets in the Town Square. These will be installed in the New Year together with Planters. A Markets Policy is being developed. Local events can be advertised on the EFDC App. A question was raised regarding the progress of the Town Square gates being completed. Duncan will investigate this. A question was raised as to signage relating to “No Cycling”. As with previous meetings when this has been raised it was confirmed that signage is the remit of Essex Highways. It remains a current matter.

Window Competition / Christmas Cards. Certificates have been printed for the Window Competition and 6 bottles of Champagne have been donated by EFDC for prizes. Paul will meet the Mayor, Cllr. Jodie Lucas tomorrow (15th) to award the prizes. U3A will provide photographers so photos can be available. These are to be sent to Richard who is our Publicity Officer in order for him to be able to forward them to the local papers. There will be an accompanying piece to explain the initiative.

 A copy of the Certificate has been forwarded to Amanda at Ninefields if she wishes to give these to shops there.

Christmas Cards for all Businesses will be delivered today.

Festival of Light / Cavalcade It was agreed this was a great success with an increase in the footfall. The revised route was well received with some residents able to see the Parade from their homes. Most comments have been positive. The split of siting the two parts of the Fun Fair was good and traders stayed open until late. The whole Town was alight. Jodie confirmed the Council will have a debrief and then a debrief of a wider group will be possible. Cllr Kane said huge congratulations to everyone involved for their hard work and organisation and making it such a successful event.  It was good to see such a spirit of Community in the Town and it was an event that raised morale.

Mark commented there were aspects to be revised for next year but thanked everyone for their support. Clive reported that there are photos available in the TIO. It would be good to have a facility in Town where photos can be projected. It was a disappointment that there had not been any  local media reporting of the Event.

Tapestry This 18ft work needs a home and discussions are taking place for the siting of this.

Publicity Opportunities:  Representatives of the Football Association have visited the local Walking Football club. With high profile members and excellent facilities, it has provided an opportunity to advertise Waltham Abbey.

Paul thanked everyone for their attendance and wished everyone a Happy Christmas and a Healthy 2022.

Date of  next Meeting Tuesday January 11th. via Zoom