Ancient church will be closed for months after fire

Firefighters at St Thomas a Beckt Church in Warblington on January 16.
Firefighters at St Thomas a Beckt Church in Warblington on January 16.

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A HISTORIC church will not reopen until April after a fire caused tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage.

The blaze at the 800-year-old St Thomas a Becket Church in Warblington destroyed the front two rows of pews – but it was the smoke that caused the most problems.

The organ has been damaged by fumes, a new pulpit is needed and the entire inside of the church will need redecoration.

A fire investigation has now confirmed that the blaze, which broke out at around 6am on January 16, was caused by an electrical fault in the church’s underfloor heating system. The Reverend Simon Sayers said: ‘The organ needs to be fully cleaned and there’s a pulpit to be replaced.

‘There’s the cost of redecoration which requires a lot of man hours and specialist people.

‘The building is 800 years old.

‘English Heritage won’t let us supply our own paint.

‘We have got to get the right people in.’

Mr Sayers said the church will be full of scaffolding for the next few weeks and it would be impractical to let people in.

But he said he wanted it open as soon as possible as it is a visitor attraction and used by many people paying their respects at Warblington Cemetery.

He said: ‘During the week, the building was left open for people to come in and sit.

‘Quite a lot of people come in from the cemetery to sit and reflect.

‘That’s why we are anxious to get it open as quickly as possible.’

The congregation is being invited to attend Sunday services at St James’ Church in Emsworth, where Mr Sayers is also the rector, until April.