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Church in Fleet reconsecrated after 2015 arson attack

05 May 2023

Parish of Fleet

Rose window, All Saints’, Fleet

Rose window, All Saints’, Fleet

A CHURCH took so long to rise from the ashes of an arson attack that one third of its current congregation had never worshipped there.

In June 2015, the Grade II listed All Saints’, Fleet, in Hampshire, was left a smouldering shell, but, last Sunday, it was re-consecrated after a £4.5-million restoration. “It has taken a long time to get here,” the Vicar, the Revd Mark Hayton, said. Back in 2015, he was a newly appointed incumbent, and he has held services in the adjoining church hall for the past eight years.

“We have lost some of our older stalwarts along the way, and more than a third of the people who worship here today have never know anything other than the building next door. In fact, I occasionally feel a little nostalgic for it.”

All Saints’ was built between 1861 and 1862 to a design by the Victorian architect William Burges, originally as a mausoleum for Janet, wife of the local landowner Charles Lefroy. It was altered in the 1930s, and the latest restoration has taken the opportunity to update some of the Burges design.

“Our purpose was to make it a church for the 21st century,” Fr Hayton said. “A significant feature is our new stained-glass rose window, which was specially designed for us. It represents the Holy Spirit, but it also represents Fleet. The flame of the Holy Spirit is in the middle, but there is lots of green, and water, which is a feature of our area.

“We have a lake — called the Pond — which is a central feature of the community. The window was designed by Amanda Winfield, and each leaf is inscribed with the name of a former parishioner, or the departed loved one of a parishioner.”

Ms Winfield was among several guests attending Sunday’s service, led by the Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Andrew Watson. Also present were a firefighter who had fought the 2015 blaze; builders who worked on the reconstruction; and those who helped to raise funds for the repair. Last week, descendants of the Lefroys travelled from around the UK and the south of France to see the fire-damaged tomb of their ancestors.

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