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Young artists quench church fire

26 July 2012

GEORGE FARROW-HAWKINS

Not for posting: entries in the Westhall Secret Postcard auction included an Interior at Westhall, a watercolour

Not for posting: entries in the Westhall Secret Postcard auction included an Interior at Westhall, a watercolour

THE quick-witted actions of two young artists sketching in the Suffolk countryside have saved a church from fire.

William Bacon and George Farrow-Hawkins were drawing in the churchyard of St Andrew's, Westhall, on Tuesday of last week, when they noticed smoke emerging from the church. While Mr Farrow-Hawkins ran to alert the emergency services, Mr Bacon used a watering can to put out the blaze.

"We ran in at the same time, and could see the fire quite clearly," Mr Farrow-Hawkins said on Tuesday. "We pulled down the curtain and used a can used for watering flowers to put it out."

The Rector of the Hundred River Benefice, a group of nine churches including St Andrew's, Canon Paul Nelson, said on Tuesday that "without that quick thinking and courage and intelligence on their part, the building could have been badly damaged and possibly lost."

The damage to a screen separating the body of the church from the vestry was "annoying, but slight". The cause of the fire is now known. A woman and a teenager have given an explanation to the police, who say that the matter will be dealt with "in due course".

Canon Nelson and parishoners had an opportunity to thank the two young men, who are both embarking on an Art Foundation course, at a charity auction held in the village hall on Sunday. The Westhall Secret Postcard auction raised more than £5000 for the church and East Anglia Children's Hospices, after celebrities responded to appeals to contribute.

Karen Kluiters, who organised the event, managed to persuade famous people including the Prime Minister, the artist Maggi Hambling, and the model Twiggy to contribute works to the collection of 173 lots, all sold anonymously, with the creator revealed only after purchase. "It seemed to take on a life of its own," Mrs Kluiters said on Tuesday.

Both Mr Bacon and Mr Farrow-Hawkins contributed pictures to the auction having learnt about it after the fire. After presenting their works on Sunday night, they were applauded by the crowd. Both pictures went on to sell for £90, which was more than the £50 secured for Mr Cameron's contribution.

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