Church severely damaged by fire will be rebuilt, says rector

St Mary's Church in Wimbotsham, near Downham Market, still boarded up three years following blaze in 2019.

St Mary's Church in Wimbotsham, near Downham Market, still boarded up three years following blaze in 2019. - Credit: Chris Bishop

A historic Norfolk church that was severely destroyed by fire three years ago "will be rebuilt", its rector said.

St Mary’s Church in Wimbotsham, near Downham Market, was gutted by fire in September 2019, which destroyed the roof and interior of the medieval building including a holy table dating from 1638 and priceless carvings.

More than 50 firefighters tackled the blaze, saving the vestry and important church documents that were kept in a safe.

Firefighters at the scene of the blaze which has gutted the historic church at Wimbotsham, near Down

Scenes at St Mary's Church in Wimbotsham on day of fire on September 4, 2019. - Credit: Archant

Fire gutted St Mary's Church in Wimbotsham, near Downham Market. Picture: Chris Bishop

Scenes at St Mary's Church in Wimbotsham on day of fire on September 4, 2019. - Credit: Archant

Following site investigations and discussions about its future use, work had begun in 2020 to move the restoration along but plans were brought to a halt due to the coronavirus.

A public meeting held weeks after the fire discussed possible plans to rebuild the church as a more modern and flexible community space.

And a 'rebuilding project' survey carried out by the Wimbotsham Parochial Church Council (PCC) revealed 'broad support' for rebuilding the church.

West Norfolk Priory Group, which is a group of 12 churches in west Norfolk including Wimbotsham, said out of the 770 questionnaires distributed to people who live in the parish or who used the church, 246 were returned.

It said responses highlighted concerns that the PCC’s plans need to be coordinated with those for updating the Village Hall following suggestions that the building could be used for a variety of community activities.

St Mary's Church in Wimbotsham, near Downham Market, still boarded up three years following blaze in 2019.

St Mary's Church in Wimbotsham, near Downham Market, still boarded up three years following blaze in 2019. - Credit: Chris Bishop

But it said the survey showed there was majority support for a 'multi-functional building' to be used by the church and the community. 

The Revd Dr David Karoon said: "Wimbotsham will be rebuilt after it was found that this was the desire of the community from the survey.

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"The PCC are presently in the process of appointing architects.

"These will be professionals who specialise in ancient architecture and church buildings.

"We are looking at firms who have experience in working with churches which have had a fire."

St Mary's Church in Wimbotsham, near Downham Market, still boarded up three years following blaze in 2019.

St Mary's Church in Wimbotsham, near Downham Market, still boarded up three years following blaze in 2019. - Credit: Chris Bishop

Rev Karoon said this process is likely to "take the rest of this year" and that the process is "slow" due to St Mary's being a listed building.

"Permission must be sought from various agencies," Rev Karoon added.

The church is still boarded up following the blaze in 2019.