David Du Croz is Chair of Trustees for St Peter’s Church in Marlborough. He lives in the town with his wife Mary. The couple have two grown-up children, Oliver and Laura, and two grandchildren aged 11 and 9.
First things first, is your surname French?
Yes, the Croz part is pronounced “Crow”. Although I like it, I do have to spell it out every single time! Its origin goes back to the Huguenots who fled France in the late 1600s. My ancestors left France for the Netherlands, and came to England fifty years after that.
How long have you lived in Marlborough?
We came here in 1996, when I took up the position of Head of History at Marlborough College. Previously I was Head of Ellesmere College in Shropshire, but I missed my subject and teaching (when you are Head you don’t get time for either). So, although I enjoyed my time as a Head, I was glad to get back to the coalface so to speak. I spent 11 years at the College, retiring in 2007, and thoroughly enjoyed my time there. I still have strong connections with the school.
What attracted you to teaching originally?
I absolutely loved my subject, and teaching gave me the opportunity to stay immersed in it, while hopefully instilling enthusiasm in my students. I’ve loved History since I was a young child, I was enthralled by stories of the past. I tried to get children to engage through storytelling, discussion and debate, even though the exam syllabus didn’t always make that easy!
Do you have a particular period that interests you?
I would describe myself as a Medievalist by inclination. That covers the thousand years between 500 and 1500 AD, although I have a particular interest in the 12th Century – King Stephen, Henry II and King John. I’ve been a bit out of my time period for the last few years though, as I have been immersed in WWI studies. I have made several trips to the Western Front, and have been working with Marlborough College helping co-ordinate their activities around the Great War.
What has that involved?
There has been a focus on the 749 alumni of the College that lost their lives during WWI. Over the past four years each incoming class of the school has been linked with those who died in that year 100 years ago. Each student has remembered a particular boy from WWI, hopefully helping them to identify with the experience.
I was also involved in the making of a film and writing a book. The film looked at the experiences of eight people connected with the College, and tells their stories through their own words from letters they sent home from the Front. The book, a limited edition of 749 copies, focuses on 100 stories, again told in the words of the soldiers that lost their lives or those of people that were close to them, and of those who survived. Marlborough College has an amazing Archive that was instrumental in producing both the book and film.
This year sees the culmination of all the activities with the 100 year anniversary of the end of the war. There will be a programme of events, many in the Memorial Hall which has been completely refurbished this year.
Your interest in History is reflected in your involvement in St Peter’s Church, how did that come about?
I was approached to get involved by Terry Rogers, who was Chair before me. At that time I lived just across the road from the Church, so it was easy to help out. Co-incidentally, my Great Grandfather was rector of the Church in late 1800s – although that wasn’t a major factor in deciding to get involved.
For those who aren’t aware, tell us about St Peter’s.
Until 1974 Marlborough had two Parish Churches. Unfortunately, St Peter’s was in a bad state of repair, so when it was decided that two churches were unsustainable, it was the one chosen to close. It stayed empty for around 4 years, and at one point was nearly demolished to make way for a large roundabout! A group of locals led by Jake Seamer, a former Mayor, campaigned to save it. Over the following years they raised enough money to renovate it (with help from English Heritage and The Lottery Fund), and since then it has become a much used space for the whole community. We are celebrating 40 years of the Trust this year.
The church contains a coffee shop and craft shop which between them provide around half of the revenue needed to maintain the building. The rest of the money is raised through the use of the space for concerts, other performances, lectures, exhibitions and sales, plus tours of the Tower (if you haven’t been it’s a great experience, and a wonderful view!)
Although it isn’t a church any longer, the Chancel and Sanctuary are maintained much as they were when still a working church, and there are still occasional services held, including an annual service close to St Peter’s Day. The Chapel is available for private prayer.
It’s an incredibly historic building, and it is lovely that it is kept alive for the community to enjoy.
What does your role involve?
As Chair of Trustees you could describe me as general dogsbody! My key area of responsibility is the programme of events that are put on each year. There are 14 trustees in total, so the workload is spread quite well. I spend a lot of time at the Church, but Trustees can do as much or as little as they like. When I first became a trustee I was still working full time. I find it quite social and have made many friends through my involvement.
What are the main challenges for the Trust?
We are in pretty good shape; probably our key challenge is finding the next generation of trustees to keep the Church going into the future. We need some of our volunteers to become trustees, or we would be interested in hearing from anyone that thinks they might be interested in getting involved. It really isn’t onerous, and time commitments are flexible. Anyone interested should give us a call to have a chat.
What do you do with your spare time?
With the end of the WWI commemorations, I will be project free, so will have more spare time. We are planning to do some more travelling next year with a Safari at the top of the list.
Apart from History, my other passion is Horse Racing. I’ve been interested since I was a child, and go as often as I can. I even own a part share in a horse – which is ridiculously and irresponsibly expensive – but makes the sport more interesting, being able to visit the training yard and share in the excitement of competition. I do bet, but sensibly. It’s a good job, as despite being fairly knowledgeable I’m less successful than Mary, who bets based on the jockey’s colours, or whether the horse’s name contains Blue or Angel!
What do you like most about Marlborough?
I like its size, it’s big enough to have plenty happening, but small enough to have a really good atmosphere. I like having things close to hand, without having to get in the car. I love the High Street, which is almost unique. We also have may friends close by which is wonderful.
What do you enjoy reading?
Unsurprisingly, I enjoy history books. I’m reading Peacemakers by Margaret MacMillan at the moment. It’s about the Paris Peace conference of 1919 and the attempts that were made to prevent another war.
How about music?
Not a big music fan – don’t listen in the house. However, I enjoy attending the concerts at St Peter’s, where I have learned a lot over the years, mostly from Nick Maurice who organises the performances. As far as pop music goes if I tell you my favourite artist is Bob Dylan, it’ll give you an idea of how long it is since I’ve listened to it. (About 40 years!).
I do enjoy singing, and sing with the College Choral Society. It’s a big choir, and when we perform we often take up so much room we almost outnumber the audience!
What do you like to watch?
We are members of Marlborough Theatre Club, so regularly go to plays. It’s good because we go to things we might not otherwise have seen. I enjoy the cinema also, but tend to go in fits and starts. I like taking the grandchildren – Peter Rabbit and Paddington were good fun!
If you are interested in finding out more about St Peter’s, you can contact David on 01672 511725 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For information about the WW1 film “The 749” and the book “Marlborough College and the Great War in 100 Stories” visit the college website www.marlboroughcollege.org