WHEN fire takes hold in a church roof, the resulting damage can
run into millions of pounds. But St Mary's, Charlbury, in
Oxfordshire, was lucky - the fire in the 12th- century church was
spotted just minutes after it is thought to have taken hold.
The fire destroyed some of the oldest section of the roof,
dating from the 15th century, and further damage was caused by
firefighters, who had to cut sections of the roof away in order to
tackle the blaze.
The fire, after a Sunday service in February 2012, is thought to
have been caused by an electrical fault.
The insurers Ecclesiastical were on the scene the next day.
Sandra Cooper, who handled the church's claim, said: "I went out
straight away with the loss adjuster to see what can be done - to
assess if the church could still be used. Although the damage to
the roof wasn't massive, compared with some churches I've seen,
there was a lot of smoke damage.
"We didn't want to have to close the church. It is well used,
and is in the heart of the community. [It is] used throughout the
week, not just on Sundays. We cordoned off the worst area, and got
contractors in to clean the remainder of the church."
Part of the church was able to open again for services the next
Sunday, and new chairs were bought with some money given by
Ecclesiastical the day after the fire to cover immediate
A churchwarden, Michael Summers, said that the insurers were
very reassuring. "They said: 'Don't worry about it: we will do what
we can to get you going.'"
It took several more months to get plans drawn up for repairs,
and passed by the DAC, and quotes approved, before work on the roof
could begin at the end of August.
Mr Summers said that the church used that time to see what other
work could be done to improve the church. Insulation was added, and
a new roof-alarm was paid for, all by funding from the
appropriately named Phoenix Fund, raised from fund-raising events
organised by members of the congregation.
A reordering service was held when the work was finished on 25
November, and Sandra Cooper attended. "It was lovely to go and see
the finished work," she said.
The cost of the claim for the clean-up and repairs amounted to
Mr Summers, who is now stepping down as a churchwarden after 13
years, said that the church was now in "sparkling condition".
"Getting over the fire was a challenge. I went to the church
every day for ten months, and I'm a bit knackered now, to be
honest. But it's good to be able to hand it over to the new
churchwardens in such a good shape. It's unfortunate that the fire
happened, of course, but the church really is better now than ever