Thunderbolts and fire - community remembers town church blaze
- Credit: IAN BURT
A community is shedding a light on the history of its church - 140 years on from a devastating fire.
St Nicholas Church in Wells will be holding a two-week long exhibition and a commemorative event to remember the blaze.
The church, on Church Street, was engulfed in flames on August 3, 1879, when a bolt of lightning struck the base of the tower during a violent thunderstorm.
Although the lower parts of the wall survived the fire largely intact, the building was almost wholly rebuilt by Herbert Green, the diocesan architect.
At the time the restoration cost £7000 with an additional £2000 being spent on a new organ, pews and completing the porch.
Now, the repair work that needs doing adds up to £300,000.
Alison Bowles, one of the people organising the event, said: "We have now found £300,000 of repair work that needs doing. It is mainly the medieval tower as it was damaged during the fire.
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"That damage, along with some windows, is the reason for the appeal because it is a medieval feature that is special to the town's look."
The main event, which will be held on Sunday, August 4, will commemorate the disaster and celebrate the Fire & Rescue Service.
Mrs Bowles said: "We will be celebrating Norfolk Fire and Rescue because the work they do often goes unrecognised. Their job is so important."
The evening, which will be held at St Nicholas Church, will have an exhibition of pictures, organ playing, barbecue and a light display.
It will also mark the official launch of the restoration appeal which will see the church raise money for the repair work needed.
Mrs Bowles said: "The local school have also done some creative writing about fires which will be on display.
"I think it is a wonderful example of our community coming together and a great show of community involvement, which we are grateful for."
Along with the main event, there will be an exhibition in the church everyday between July 27 and August 11 which will show old pictures of the church and share its history.
The Eastern Daily Press report from the night of the fire
On August 4, 1879, the Eastern Daily Press published the following report:
"Norfolk has not experienced since August 9, 1843, such a thunderstorm.
It raged over the greater portion of the county between Saturday at 7pm and 7am on Sunday.
The greatest disaster to buildings occurred at Wells-next-the-Sea. The parish church has, in fact, been destroyed.
It was struck at six o'clock by lightning, fire took hold and and it was burned in spite of the effort of the inhabitants to save it.
A telegram describes the building as a wreck, and adds that nothing is left standing but the tower."
In relation to the storm, the EDP also reported on one man that was killed and another injured, scenes in Norwich streets, destruction of property and houses and shops that were flooded.
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