Such a visit is unlikely, but, then again, so was the donation.
It was inspired by Sheikh Maktoum’s ownership of the Godolphin racing stable, and the many modern thoroughbreds descended from a bay colt foaled in the early 18th century, known as the Godolphin Arabian or the Godolphin Barb, and owned by Francis, the Second Earl of Godolphin.
Equine descendants of the famed stud include champions such as Seabiscuit and Man o’ War, and a print of the 18th-century horse hangs in the paneled dining room of a grand country estate, once owned by the earl, which lies just outside the village of Godolphin Cross.
Under the sheikh, the Godolphin stable is a global thoroughbred breeding and horse racing operation with bases in Dubai, Australia and Newmarket, England.
It was not much to go on, but the first positive sign was a call from Dubai requesting more information about Godolphin Cross. Then, some weeks later, the association’s treasurer called Mr. McKie saying he had news, but asking him to sit down before he relayed it.
“My first reaction was, ‘Are we being hoaxed?’” Mr. McKie said.
“Even when the money was in the bank we were saying, ‘Check again, check again,’” said Mr. McKie, speaking in the chapel where urgent work includes removing a number of bats, and longer-term modernization could cost an eyewatering £350,000, or $450,000.
Mr. McKie describes the gift as “wonderful,” and for this 700-strong community it is a rare success after a run of losing battles to keep open the traditional social props of village life.
Built in 1934, the chapel has rows of shiny wooden pews, Art Deco stained-glass windows and a large organ. A schoolroom at the rear, dating from 1844, has become the meeting point for several local groups, and the building also hosts a post office that appears for regular visits.
Before the sheikh’s intervention, the chapel was slated to go on the market with a price tag of around £100,000, or $130,000 — four times what the association had raised to save it — and was likely to be converted into a home. As a charitable organization, the Methodist Church was obliged to try to get a reasonable value for the property, Mr. McKie said.
“What we were facing was a ticking clock,” he added. “As soon as it went on the open market we were going to be blown away. We were staring failure in the face.”
Fittingly, salvation came with the help of someone who had attended the chapel for decades before services stopped last year because the aging congregation was dwindling.
Valerie Wallace has lived in Godolphin Cross for more than three decades but, at 82, was retiring from her role as the village’s correspondent for the local newspaper. While clearing out her files she discovered an article describing an earlier, unsuccessful attempt by a local architect, Steve Kaack, to appeal to the sheikh for a donation to save the village’s Anglican church. Mr. Kaack, who had been a business visitor to Dubai, has since left the village.
“I thought: ‘Good heavens! We could have another go,’” Mrs. Wallace said, displaying the original article from The Racing Post, published 17 years ago. She passed it on to Mr. McKie, prompting his approach to the sheikh.
Even then, the chances seemed remote, as the link to Dubai is hardly a direct one. Ann Clegg, the secretary of the Friends of Godolphin and a volunteer at the Godolphin estate, said that an added complication was that there was some confusion about the origins of the Godolphin Arabian. All agree that it was one of several horses given by the Bey of Tunis to Louis XV of France in 1730, and was acquired by an Englishman, Edward Coke, before being bought by Francis Godolphin.
However, Ms. Clegg says that the Godolphin Arabian would not have been seen on the Cornish estate, which was hundreds of miles from its normal stables, and where racing never took place. Indeed, although the horse’s owner, Francis Godolphin, visited at least once, as a 12-year-old, there is little evidence that he spent much time in Cornwall, preferring life in London.
Speaking at her home, not far from the chapel, Mrs. Wallace said she had offered the occasional quiet prayer for the chapel to be saved, but hardly expected it to happen this way.
The donation was, she said, “wonderful,” before adding that she was very happy to have played a role in bringing it about.
“I am,” she added with a chuckle, “very proud of myself.”
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