There has been a phenomenal response of community support since the fire that gutted All Saints Church, Fleet on 22nd June. In a little over a month – and in under four weeks since the launch of the All Saints Fund – £10,000 has been raised by the end of July.
Traditionally, on the last Friday afternoon of the school year, the year 6 children from All Saints Junior School would walk to All Saints Church for their leavers’ assembly. But this year, due to the fire that swept through the 153-year-old building, the service was held at the Church on the Heath on the Elvetham Heath estate. There was a presentation of £273.20 to the Vicar of Fleet, the Rev Mark Hayton of money that had been raised from the School’s Summer Fair.
Rev. Roy Woodhams, a former Vicar of Fleet and now Rector of Cranleigh and his daughter Martha had been due to perform in the popular mid-week lunchtime concert at All Saints Church at the start of July. The concert had to be rearranged after the fire and was held at St Nicolas, Cranleigh on 5 July. The audience of more than 150 people responded generously, adding more than £2,000 to the church appeal.
Amongst the other donations to the fund were Alison and Becky who raised £80 with a bake sale and the staff from NatWest Fleet branch have collected £715 pounds from customers.
The building works and re-roofing costs of All Saints church will be met by the insurance company. However, there will be many other costs involved before the church can become a fully operational part of the community in Fleet again. When launching the All Saints Fund, Rev. Mark Hayton said “The PCC and community of All Saints have been heartened by the support we have received from the community of Fleet following the fire. We are hugely grateful for all the offers of help and support, both financial and otherwise.”
A new website has been launched – http://ariseallsaints.uk/ – dedicated to the efforts to restore the church to its place at the centre of the community in Fleet. This will be providing regular updates on the progress being made, as well as details of fundraising events. The site has already received over one hundred offers of help and can now receive donations by secure online payment, as well as cheque and cash donations.
Our immediate priority, once the church site had been handed back to us by the police and fire authorities, was to ensure public safety. Because the building is currently in a dangerous state our insurers quickly arranged for high fencing and a 24hr guard to be put in place.
The next priority has been to make the building secure and safe, and to remove the debris. To this end, on Tuesday this week, 30 June, our churchwardens had a lengthy meeting on site with our insurers, loss adjusters, a structural engineer and our Inspecting Architect plus conservator. Our architect has been appointed to oversee the clearance process working with a specialist site clearance company recommended by our insurers. His job is to ensure that the work is carried out expeditiously, but with due regard to protecting and saving any materials which may be required for any future restoration. Once detailed Method Statements have been prepared we will be seeking an open Faculty from the Diocese of Guildford to allow the clearance process to start.
The initial report from the structural engineer indicates that the main brick structures are sound, but some work may be needed to protect them from further damage. The clearance work will start with the high level structure – removing unstable roof beams and tiles for example. Once this is done it will be safe for a team to move in and start work on the debris at ground level. Clearly we all want this to happen as quickly as possible, but this is difficult and specialised work and we need to ensure both the safety of those involved and that due care is taken not to damage the structure further or to lose any fragments which can be salvaged.
As part of the meeting on Tuesday we were able to gain brief access to the interior of the church and have taken a number of photographs which can be viewed below.
At this time we are a long way from making any decisions about how best to restore the building. We recognise that there are already many different opinions on this subject and it is our intention to conduct a timely but wide consultation process involving both our Church family and the broader community of Fleet, so that everyone has an opportunity to express their views. Meanwhile we remain immensely grateful for all the love and support we have received from so many people at this difficult time.