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Floods hit 130 churches, at a cost of £500,000

10 January 2014

by a staff reporter


Flooded out: St Mary the Virgin, Charminster, Dorset, swamped by water from the river Cerne

Flooded out: St Mary the Virgin, Charminster, Dorset, swamped by water from the river Cerne

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 on.

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.


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