The clearance at All Saints by the specialists has now been completed and the church has been handed back to us. The pulpit, font and Lefroy memorial have been enclosed in plywood to protect them from winter weather.
The ‘Top Hat’ (temporary roof) will be fitted in the next month or so. This will cut out the light so these sunny views of the church may be the last you will see for a while.
The angel is holding All Saints Church before the extension in the1930s with the cloistered narthex on the west door.
This week work began on the clearance of debris from the church. The team from Richford’s will be carrying this out, with support from our architect and conservator. Work to remove asbestos from the boiler room and vestries, and to repair the Choir vestry roof, will also be beginning soon. This will allow the vestry to be used as a storage space for salvaged items, and provide facilities for the clearance team to use. This clearance work will probably take the best part of two months to complete.
Meanwhile, the PCC will be conducting a widespread consultation asking what we want from our church building in the future, as a first step towards making plans for the rebuilding. This will be done by means of a series of open meetings, as well as inviting people to give us their thoughts in person or in writing. Once clearance is completed, the windows and doors of the church will be sealed, scaffolding erected and a temporary roof put on to protect surviving monuments and furnishings, and to make the site secure. Then the work of rebuilding can begin!
Please pray for all those working on site, and for all the professionals working hard on our behalf.
Since the Great Fire of 22nd June it appears that little has changed except the fence and the security guard. Remedial action will soon be apparent so I will explain what has happened so far.
As the fire burned our Bishop and Archdeacon appeared, so right from the start the Diocese were informed and we had the Bishops guiding prayers for the future. The Standing Committee then met soon afterwards and was enlarged by invitation to Richard Buller, Jenny Thorne and Nic Evans and it has met regularly since.
On advice, Nick Doran and myself appointed our Quinquennial Architect Robin Nugent to assist with the initial phase of the work which was to make the site safe and to then to clear the rubble. We have had several discussions with the Ecclesiastical Insurance Company, Crawfords the Loss Adjusters, their Structural Engineer and Richfords their Emergency Contractors who provided the Fence and Security guard.
We have had meetings with Hart District Council and communications with the Diocesan Advisory Committee resulting in the Chancellor of the Diocese giving us permission to proceed with the initial phase of the work.
The PCC has now appointed 3cRisk as Principal Designer and Richfords as Principal Contractor to meet Health and Safety requirements. An Asbestos survey has been carried out and its removal planned.
With regard to the damage caused by the fire we can say nothing remains of the Nave and Aisle roofs or Rose window or contents.
The Organ and much of the Chancel was destroyed though not the three Sanctuary stained glass windows .
The Lefroy Monument, old Reredos, Font and Pulpit were damaged but a major part of the “Holy, Holy, Holy” wall painting across the Chancel Arch has survived. We have appointed Hirst Conservation to advise on these Burges matters.
Next week we should see a crane and other machinery arrive to deal with the high level debris and skips for clearing up etc.
The PCC will then start to discuss the process of consultation with Parishioners, the Town and other interested bodies with regard to the future of the building.
The PCC and community of All Saints have been heartened by the support we have received from the community of Fleet following the fire last Monday. We are hugely grateful for all the offers of help and support, both financial and otherwise.
The building works and re-roofing costs of All Saints church will be met by our insurance company. However, there will be many other costs involved before we can become a fully operational church again.
In view of all the many donations and offers to fund-raise on our behalf we have set up an ‘All Saints Fund’ to receive financial gifts. It would be a great help to us if you could use this title when fundraising for us, as mention of ‘rebuilding the roof’ will greatly restrict the way we are able to use your gift.
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.
June 22nd 2015, shortly after 5.30pm. A mother taking her young daughter to Ballet class in the Fleet Parish community Centre, adjacent to All Saints Church, notices smoke coming from the Church. Ballet staff summon the Fire brigade and inform the Hall manager who rings the Vicar and Churchwardens. The young Ballet students evacuate the Community Centre.
5.40, the Fire Brigade arrive to find the Church burning fiercely. They bring in more engines and a high turntable ladder to fight the flames from above. Their job is hampered by the frequent cascades of red hot tiles avalanching off the steeply pitched roof.
6.30 pm, dense smoke envelops the Church and drifts across the High Street 50 yards away. Crowds gather, raising phones and cameras high. Many of them are remembering weddings, funerals and christenings attended in this place. The media arrive with radio vans and cameras. Our new Bishop, Andrew, and retiring Bishop Ian, who knows us well, both come to give their support. We hear that, even as our Church burns, members of another Fleet Church are already praying for us.
10.10pm the fire is being damped down but the east end is still flickering. An exhausted Fireman is sitting slumped outside the FPCC, while others keep a watching brief. The Police will be here all night. Many others who loved this building find sleep impossible.