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Cause of church blaze which destroyed 17th century altar is investigated

PUBLISHED: 10:41 05 September 2019 | UPDATED: 10:50 05 September 2019

Fire has gutted the church at Wimbotsham, near Downham Market  Picture: Chris Bishop

Fire has gutted the church at Wimbotsham, near Downham Market Picture: Chris Bishop

Archant

An investigation into the cause of a blaze which gutted a Norfolk church is expected to take days, as conservation experts say the heritage lost in the fire is "irreplaceable".

St Mary's Church at Wimbotsham remains cordoned off the day after it was gutted by fire. Picture: Sarah HussainSt Mary's Church at Wimbotsham remains cordoned off the day after it was gutted by fire. Picture: Sarah Hussain

St Mary's Church in Wimbotsham remains cordoned off today after it was severely damaged in a fire yesterday morning.

Dozens of firefighters battled to save the medieval building, but the roof of the church was destroyed.

While crews rescued some historical items from the church, the Diocese of Ely said the church's holy table dating from 1638 has been destroyed.

MORE: The ornate interior of church before it was consumed by fire

A spokesman from the Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service said a site investigation is still ongoing and the results are not likely to be known for days.

Firefighters are battling a blaze at the church in Wimbotsham. Picture Anne Bloy.Firefighters are battling a blaze at the church in Wimbotsham. Picture Anne Bloy.

Church warden Liz Wing said they were not yet sure what will happen to the church and are waiting for the site investigation to be completed.

The Diocese said the Venerable Hugh McCurdy, Archdeacon of Huntingdon and Wisbech, immediately travelled to the scene to offer his support to the local community.

He said: "The community is obviously devastated by the damage caused to the ancient and beautiful St Mary's Church.

"We must now await the outcome of the structural report, and while some church treasures were saved, we know the holy table dating from 1638 has been destroyed.

Fire destroys most of St Mary's Church in Wimbotsham.    Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2019Fire destroys most of St Mary's Church in Wimbotsham. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2019

"As we move forward from the day's sad events, we will be working very closely the whole community about what we now need to do following this devastating fire.

"We are also so grateful to the brave fire crews from the Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service who tackled the blaze and give our thanks that no-one was hurt in the fire."

Peter Aiers, chief executive of the Churches Conservation Trust, said: "We are saddened by the shocking news that the historic church of St Mary's in Wimbotsham, Norfolk, was severely damaged by fire in the morning of September 4 2019.

"St Mary's is an active parish church in the Diocese of Ely and our thoughts are with the local community.

"We understand that while the bell tower and chancel have sustained only smoke damage, the rest of the church has been completely damaged by the fire and all furniture has been lost, including a holy altar table dating to 1638.

"The history and heritage lost in this fire is irreplaceable and the costs of repairing the physical damage will be substantial.

"We are ready to offer advice to support the parochial church council in their efforts to conserve this historic church, if they wish to get in touch."

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