Alert verger prevents carnage after arson attack during Chelmsford Cathedral evensong

07 July 2017

Chelmsford Cathedral

Destroyed: the ashes of the Mothers’ Union banner, which has hung in the cathedral since the 1980s

Destroyed: the ashes of the Mothers’ Union banner, which has hung in the cathedral since the 1980s

AN ARSON attack during evensong at Chelmsford Cathedral, on Wednesday of last week, could have devastated the building, had it not been for the quick thinking of one of the cathedral vergers, a spokeswoman said.

Police were called to the cathedral at about 5.20 p.m after a verger, David Robinson, saw smoke coming from St Cedd’s Chapel, during the service, which was being led by children from St Cedd’s School choir.

“Using a fire extinguisher, he quickly contained and put out the fire,” the spokeswoman said. “Meanwhile the alarms went off and the children, staff, and other service goers were calmly evacuated.”

A prayer book had been used to light a fire under a Mothers’ Union banner, which had hung in the chapel since the 1980s, she said. It was completely destroyed (pictured). The names of two people believed to have been involved in the attack have been given to the police.

Essex Police have appealed for more information. No arrests have been made and inquiries are ongoing.

The Dean of Chelmsford, the Very Revd Nicholas Henshall said: “It is very disappointing that anyone would find it appropriate to start a fire in a cathedral, let alone during our daily prayer. But I am delighted with the response of our staff, volunteers, and all those present at evensong.” He praised the response of staff, volunteers, and worshippers at evensong.

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