Fire Rips through Historic Church
Flames engulfed the 800-year-old St Peter’s Church in Ropley just before 9am on Thursday 19th June, destroying medieval architecture, the roof, the bell tower and doorways.
At its height, 100 fire-fighters were tackling the blaze, with 12 fire engines, three water carriers, a special equipment unit and a commercial unit.
The loud clang of a bell falling could be heard as fire-fighters hosed the tower, while parts of the roof disintegrated and fell onto the church floor.
Villagers gathered in the church grounds, offering what help they could. Some set up a tea and coffee station for the fire-fighters tackling the blaze. A welfare station was also set up in the grounds.
Among those gathered, watching on in disbelief, was the Rev Royston Such, vicar of the historic church for 24 years.
“It’s absolutely devastating,” he said. “The building has so many memories attached to it – we have a book called A Year’s Mind which we use to commemorate people who have died in the village.
“It’s not just my church, it’s everybody’s church. It hasn’t sunk in, and it doesn’t feel real. It’s utterly catastrophic.”
Fire officer in charge, area manager Steve Foye, said: “This was a significant fire that has seriously affected a prominent building within the village.
“Crews have worked hard in arduous conditions to bring the fire under control.
“We would like to thank the local community for their support during this time.”
Despite speculation relating to power surges in the hours leading up to the blaze, the cause of the fire is not yet known.
The cost of repairs to the building is estimated to be around £2.5m, but donations have already been flooding in.
“People are responding in financial terms but also with love and that is the only word for it,” Rev Royston Such told local papers.
Investigations into the cause of the fire continue.
| ||Collated by Philip Turnbull |