Plea for more cash as church is restored

General View of St Mary's Church Westry near March
General View of St Mary's Church Westry near March

March fire-ravaged St Mary’s church is still at least a year away from re-opening and another £30,000 is needed to complete the necessary rebuilding and refurbishment work.

That was the news given to members of the town’s museum when they were given an exclusive look inside the church by the Rev Anthony Chandler recently.

General View of St Mary's Church Westry near March

General View of St Mary's Church Westry near March

A video of the group’s visit was posted on-line on the March ShapeYourPlace website by Joan Munns with Mr Chandler recounting the horror of the fire in March 2010 and the damage wrought by the intensity of the blaze.

During his commentary Mr Chandler explained how the arsonists responsible had made a determined effort to burn the church down. They had set light to books in the font and in piles around the building after gaining access to the church via a window in the porch, which was no larger than the size of a A4 piece of paper.

He described how the fire initially smouldered for around 10 to 12 hours with a build up of toxic black smoke which finally burst into a fireball when the church door was opened.

It took only minutes for the blaze to take hold ripping through the roof which collapsed within 15 minutes of the fire taking hold.

Mr Chandler also described the painstaking work behind the scenes to ensure the popular church was restored to exactly how it was before the fire.

He explained how precise measurements were taken from the charred remains of the roof and how original plans had been tracked down to a London museum where examples of work by the architect who designed the St Mary’s were kept.

The roof is now complete, but there is still much work to be done including the installation of underfloor heating and a stone floor itself, plastering, a new organ and furnishings as well as a diabled toilet.

The church’s insurance covered the cost of restoring the church as it was but additions and improvements have to be paid for separately. So far donations and fundraising have raised £70,000 but a further £30,000 is still needed and Mr Chandler explained he was hoping to tap into some grant funding, but is also hoping that local benefactors might also come forward.