IN 1638, the church tower of
St Pancras's, Widecombe-in-the-Moor, was struck by lightning. Four
worshippers were killed, and the building was severely damaged.
Within a week, a pamphlet had been published in London, describing
the "most strange and lamentable accidents" as evidence of "God's
visible judgements, and terrible remonstrances"; within 20 years,
the incident was being cited in a pamphlet addressed to Oliver
Cromwell attacking steeples as "idolatrous".
Fortunately for the
congregation of St Odulph's, Pillaton, Cornwall, responses to
lightning strikes are more measured in the 21st century.
Nevertheless, descriptions of the bolt that struck the church tower
at 11.30 p.m. on Monday of last week would probably satisfy the
17th-century taste for drama.
"There was a tremendous
storm over Pillaton which took out lots of the telephones and
computer systems right through village," one of the churchwardens,
Graham Palmer, said on Monday. "The church tower got struck, and it
was a huge thunderbolt that people heard for miles around - an
incredible flash and tremendous crash. The lightning struck the
north-east pinnacle of the tower, and it literally exploded - it
was a 20-foot-high granite pinnacle . . . and a huge chunk came
down and damaged the church roof, the nave, and the aisles. The
biggest hole is 15 foot across."
Although there is a "huge
amount" of debris in the church, and a couple of pews were smashed,
Mr Palmer reported that "not a single pane of glass was
Braving the "dreadful
weather", builders, scaffolders, and church architects came
together immediately to secure the church, and a temporary covering
was used to make the church as waterproof as possible.
Mr Palmer said that the
church's insurers, Ecclesiastical, had confirmed that the repairs,
estimated to cost about £1.2 million, would be covered. An
assessment process has now been begun at the church, which is Grade
I listed. Both the diocesan architect and English Heritage will be
consulted, and a specialist-cleaning company has been employed to
retain "as much material that can be possibly used in repairs".
Some items are being stored in parishioners' homes.
St Odulph's is not expected to reopen for at least six