July 31 2014 Latest news:
The St Mary's Church in Westry near March which was destroyed by fire in March 2010 again stands proud on the Fenland landscape. The first building phase has now been completed and the scaffolding has been removed. (The church fire in March 2010)
Story by: ANDREW PAPWORTH
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
WHEN the beautiful 130-year-old St Mary’s Church was destroyed by a fire, parishioners were promised it would “rise from the ashes”.
Two years since the terrible events of March 15 2010, the rise is almost complete.
Since arsonists torched the historic 19th Century building at 10.15am that day, photographer Brian Purdy has chronicled the slow return to its former glory.
At one stage it seemed that its dream of recovery might never become reality.
But hope soon started to emerge after a fundraising campaign was launched which enabled the church to assess the damage, develop detailed plans and seek the necessary permissions to enable the first phase of the restoration work to take place.
Within eight months donations totalling £40,000 had been received, which were used to meet costs of furnishing the interior of the church not covered by insurance.
A contract was later awarded to E Bowman and Sons, whose first task was to erect a temporary roof structure to keep the building weather tight.
Scaffolding was put up by December 2010, with covering in place by March the following year.
By May the stonework was being replaced and new windows provided, with a new chancel arch clearly visible.
But just two weeks before completion this year E Bowmans and Sons ceased trading, putting the finishing touches of the £550,000 project in doubt.
Architect Shona McKay said: “It could have been a lot worse for us, and very fortunately the excellent scaffolding company who rescued us on the day of the fire and propped up the spire were on site and are going to finish everything off.”
However there is still more to do.
The fitting of the church interior is now out to tender and the winner of the contract is due to be announced shortly.