AS BRITAIN begins to count the cost of the latest storms and
flooding, insurers say that more than 130 churches have so far
submitted claims for wind- and rain-damage. Ecclesiastical
Insurance, which insures almost all Anglican churches in the UK,
said that the total bill was already more than £500,000.
The floods this week reached right up to Salisbury Cathedral,
and two people had to be evacuated from the Close. The cathedral
itself remained dry and unaffected, however, a statement from the
Dean and Chapter said.
One of the worst affected regions has been the south-west:
Cornwall, Devon, and Dorset have suffered from extensive flooding.
In Dorset, St Mary the Virgin, Charminster, which is Grade I listed
(above), had been "ruined" by floodwater, the Vicar, the
Revd Janet Smith, said: water had lifted up the parquet floor.
Homes in the village, near Dorchester, have also suffered badly
from water damage.
Further inland, in Oxfordshire, parts of Oxford and along the
Thames were also affected, as river-levels rose and burst their
banks. And, in Somerset, the 15th-century St Peter and St Paul,
Muchelney - which has been cut off by floodwater - was turned into
a communal storeroom, as food was brought to the village by boat,
the Assistant Curate in the Langport Team Ministry, the Revd
Jessica Pitman, said.
In Gloucestershire, floodwater has again hit St Michael and All
Angels, Tirley, near Tewkesbury (above). The church was
reopened three years ago, after flooding devastated it in 2007 (News, 3 August
2007). The Rector, the Revd John Longuet-Higgins, said that the
water was again surrounding the church and the land around it, and,
as the level of the river rose, had flooded the floor.
He visited the village by rowing-boat on Saturday. "The church
is an island in a lake of water, but it has been redesigned to cope
with this. The organ is now out of the way of floodwater, and the
chairs were moved in advance. It will just need to dry out, but
there should be no lasting damage.
"What does affect people is the flooding of the churchyard,
which is still open for burials. The houses in the village have
also been affected by the water - but this happened last Christmas,
too, and people are pretty phlegmatic."
Another of the seven churches in the benefice, St Bartholomew's,
Ashleworth, has also been flooded.
Some areas were still suffering from the storm that caused
widespread damage and power cuts just before Christmas. The office
at St Andrew's, Cobham, in Surrey, was flooded hours before the
church's Christmas Eve service, and members of the congregation
rushed to move valuables inside the church.
Coastal areas suffered the greatest damage, however, from tidal
surges and exceptionally high tides.
Prayers were said in Devon for a missing teenager, Harry Martin,
who disappeared after going to take photos of the waves on 2
January. A special service was held on Monday evening this week in
his local church, St Peter's, Revelstoke, as the search went
The Priest-in-Charge, the Revd Anne Legge, said that candles
were lit for him, and messages of hope were written. She said: "We
all feel helpless at a time like this. We all want to do something.
But one thing we can do is pray for Harry and his family."
Although some brighter spells are forecast for the end of this
week, the Environment Agency is still warning of more floods, as
swollen rivers struggle to cope with any further rainfall.