WORSHIPPERS formed a human chain to rescue precious artefacts
from Fakenham Parish Church, in Norfolk, last Sunday, after flames
from a burning shop next door threatened to engulf the
The fire broke out during a morning service at St Peter and St
Paul, in the town's market square, eventually gutting the factory
outlet where it started, two other business premises, and seven
When the fire began, the Rector, the Revd Adrian Bell, said that
he felt that his 13 years' work on restoring the building would
soon all be in flames. "At times, the fire was extremely fierce,
and looked as if the church was going to be burnt down. Thankfully
through the immense skill of the fire fighters, only smoke damage
can be seen in the church," he said.
He praised the firefighters, who continuously sprayed water on
to the church roof to stop sparks igniting the building.
A car owned by one of the congregation, however, and the
church's floodlights, were destroyed. The building, which dates
from the 14th century, was due to be inspected this week for safety
by its insurers.
"As some of the congregation rushed for safety into St Peter's
Garden, others began to strip the church of oil paintings, silver,
vestments, and anything valuable," Mr Bell said. "My main concern
was for the safety of people. Buildings can be replaced, but not
The last time there was a large fire in the town was in Tudor
times, when the church was saved. In 1940, it was nearly destroyed
by a stray Luftwaffe bomb.
More than 100 firefighters attended the blaze, which took until
early evening to bring under control. Two people were rescued from
flats above the burning properties, but no one was taken to