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Carbonised church may have carbon-neutral future

03 September 2021


17th-century bell in situ at All Saints’, Mackworth, Derbyshire

17th-century bell in situ at All Saints’, Mackworth, Derbyshire

A MEDIEVAL church almost destroyed by fire will, it is hoped, rise from the ashes as a carbon-neutral beacon for the future.

Only the tower survived after the blaze at the Grade I listed All Saints’, Mackworth, in Derbyshire, last December (News 11 December; 1 January); but, with the local support and the aid of a payout of almost £7 million from Ecclesiastical Insurance, hopes are high for a successful restoration.

It has taken until now for engineers to stabilise the stonework, which dates from the 14th century, and tests are still being undertaken to determine how badly the fabric was damaged before repairs can begin. Only then can the PCC consider how to reconstruct the interior. “We want to have it so that it still looks like a medieval church from the outside, but be very sneaky and have an inside modernised in ways that are as close to carbon neutral as we can get,” the Priest-in-Charge, the Revd Jacqueline Stober, said.

“Things like underfloor heating, maybe with a ground-source heat-pump in the glebe field next door. Hopefully put up some solar panels and use natural materials as much as possible, but, at the same time, make it appear to be as it always was. We have not gone into detail yet, but everyone is pretty much agreed that that is what we want.”

In July, the church’s three bells, which date from the 17th century, were removed and taken to the John Taylor & Co. foundry in Loughborough for examination.

“The PCC was absolutely amazing,” Ms Stober said. “When Covid was going, and with Christmas, they still made time to meet together online, and make all these huge decisions. We also had massive support from the parish, and from people whose lives are tied to the church through baptisms and weddings — even if they don’t attend the church themselves. They still care passionately about the building. It really is, and will continue to be, at the heart of the community.”

Just days after the fire, an internet JustGiving page had raised £10,000. The TV celebrity auctioneer Charles Hanson, who was married in All Saints’ in 2010, organised a fund-raising sale, and a ten-year-old schoolgirl raised £1000 through a sponsored 10km run.

“We have been absolutely heartened by people’s response,” Ms Stober said. “Some of the things we want to do won’t be covered by insurance, like making the church carbon-neutral; so those are the things where we need people to pitch in. It’s a chance for us to be a flagship for the future.” She hopes that the church will be open in time for Christmas 2022.

Ecclesiastical’s claims director, Jeremy Trott, said: “Unfortunately, this isn’t the first church we’ve seen destroyed by fire, and it is unlikely to be the last, but, in our 130 years as a trusted insurer of churches, we have developed the specialist skills needed to help restore them to their former glory, and will be using all of that experience on this project.

“A huge amount of work has already taken place, but this will be a long and complex project.”

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