English village Godolphin Cross asks for help from Dubai Ruler

Residents of a village in south-west England are hoping that their historic connection with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid’s racing stable can help them to rescue their community.

The Methodist chapel in Godolphin Cross village, West Cornwall. Courtesy Godolphin Cross Community Association
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ABU DHABI // Residents of a village in south-west England are hoping that their historic connection with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid’s racing stable can help them to rescue their community.

The people of Godolphin Cross, a Cornwall community with a population of about 700, have pleaded with the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai’s office to help them buy their community hall, the last public centre in the small town.

“This is Godolphin Cross’s last stand and we face our darkest hour,” said Richard McKie, chairman of the Godolphin Cross Community Association.

The association has managed to raise £20,000, or about Dh91,000 of the more than £100,000 needed to buy the village’s Methodist chapel and schoolroom, which has doubled as a community hall.

Mr McKie decided to write to Sheikh Mohammed when he was approached by one of the older members of the village last week with a document indicating that Godolphin Arabian – one of the three founding stallions of the modern thoroughbred and the horse after which Sheikh Mohammed’s stable was named – was bred in the village in the 18th century.

“We have exhausted all possibilities to raise money in the country and have been turned away by all the charities here in England. They look at this part of the country and do not understand what the problem could be,” he said.

The village’s location among idyllic countryside and near a picturesque coastline means its property is in great demand, which in turn has resulted in the loss of public and commercial centres, Mr McKie said.

After holidaying in the village for years, Paul Gray, the association’s secretary and a former London policeman, retired to the village with his wife in 2003.

“Every time we headed back to London from here we felt we were going in the wrong direction,” he said.

Mr Gray said that without the hall, the village as a community would die.

“It would be great if we could receive help because there is no way we can raise that kind of money in the time we have.”

With declining congregations, the Methodist chapel ceased to operate as a place of worship in April and the church is looking to sell the property.

Churches, general stores and garages have all been sold and turned into residential areas, leaving the Methodist chapel as the last public centre.

“A former church was sold and the property that replaced now has gravestones in its backyard. The community is dying and the only way to keep it alive is with this hall,” Mr McKie said.

The hall plays host to youth groups, a women’s association and a lunch group for the elderly, among other groups.

With public buses running until 6pm, Mr McKie said it was hard for the young or elderly to travel to neighbouring towns for functions.

He said the village’s history and heritage was at stake, and once public buildings disappeared they would never come back.

If they are able to raise the money, Mr McKie said they would dedicate part of the grounds to the village’s thoroughbred history.

“We really have our back against the wall but will keep fighting to keep our community alive,” he said.

tsubaihi@thenational.ae