January 30, 2023

ENGLAND: 170 Years Old Historic Christian Church In London Destroyed In Large Fire On Thursday.

BBC News, UK
written by Liz Jackson and Celestina Olulode
Friday January 27, 2023

A Grade II* listed church in north-west London has been destroyed in a fire overnight.

Eighty firefighters were deployed to St Mark's church in Hamilton Terrace, St John's Wood, at 23:20 GMT on Thursday.

Videos on social media showed the entire two-storey building alight, while witnesses said the roof of the ornate Victorian building had caved in.

London Fire Brigade (LFB) said there were no injuries and the cause of the fire was not known.

The National Churches Trust has described St Mark's as an "architectural and historical treasure".

The building, which is more than 170 years old, has links to author Lewis Carroll and Queen Victoria's son Prince Leopold and is situated near Abbey Road Studios and Lord's Cricket Ground.

The vicar of St Mark's, the Reverend Kate Harrison, told the BBC the fire was "heart-breaking for us as a church and a local community".

"We remain in deep shock, but are so grateful for the prayers and messages that continue to come in, and commit to continuing to serve the local community as best we can," she added.

Sophia Tennant, who witnessed the fire, said she was getting ready for bed when she looked out of the window and saw flames rising from inside a building which she later realised was the church.

After calling the fire brigade, she said she "came and watched and it was really flaming, most of the roof seemed to be on fire".

"You could see the fire inside the church going up what would have been the stained glass window at the east end, so it's pretty disastrous," she said.

Reema Raisinghani, 32, lives in Hamilton Terrace directly opposite the church and said residents living on the ground floor of nearby buildings were told to evacuate as the flames spread.

She said the building was fully alight, including the spire, by 00:30 and "pieces of the church were actually falling down the faรงade".

"It's an iconic church, I'm used to waking up to it every single morning. It's one of those massive community churches, it's just a centre point for the whole terrace as well," she said.

"The beautiful stone colour is now all black, it's a black shell. There's ash everywhere, including outside my whole flat."

Another witness described seeing "lots of flames" which became "much bigger before the roof caved in".

More than 10 fire engines were deployed to the scene, with crews from North Kensington, Paddington and West Hampstead working to put out the flames.

Firefighters used three ladders to spray water on to the building, including two 34m (111 ft) ladders and one 64m (209 ft) ladder that is the tallest of its kind in Europe.

Eddie Tulasiewicz, from the National Churches Trust, said it was a tragedy that such a "beautiful, historic church" had been struck by fire, but he hoped "a lot of the interior can be saved".

"Churches are full of wood and most have fire detectors, but what they need is sprinkler systems," he said.

Households in the area were previously advised to keep windows and doors closed, and police asked the public to avoid the area to allow emergency services to work.

LFB said fire teams remained on site making the scene safe and were carrying out investigations into the cause of the blaze.

Westminster City Council said there would be local road closures until late morning, but all residents were "safe and accounted for".
  • Built in 1846 to replace a small temporary building which had been set up to cater for the expanding population of St John's Wood
  • Survived being hit by an enemy bomb in 1941 during World War Two, with work to rebuild its spire being completed in 1955
  • The interior features several memorials including one commemorating the tragedy of the Herald of Free Enterprise, a cross channel ferry which capsized off Zeebrugge in 1987
  • The floor and walls are decorated with ornate mosaics including multicoloured and gold depictions of Bible passages
  • Robinson Duckworth was appointed vicar of St Mark's in 1870 after spending four years as Prince Leopold's tutor. Prince Leopold also laid the church's foundation stone when it was built
  • Duckworth was immortalised as the duck in the jury box in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and was in the boat when the writer first told his famous story
The Evening Standard, UK local
written by Barney Davis
Sunday January 29, 2023

The heartbroken vicar of a Grade II*-listed church destroyed during a fire said forensics may never find out what triggered the blaze.

Reverend Kate Harrison held a defiant service outside the burnt-out shell of the church after a towering inferno ripped through, caving in the roof, on Thursday night.

Dozens gathered for a Candlemas Eucharist service on Sunday in the shadow of the church using a cross made from pieces of burnt timber pulled from the building.

She told the BBC: “The forensic services are going to be looking at trying to discover what caused the fire but we have been warned that we might never know.

“It’s really sad, it’s like a bereavement what’s happened here and I would like answers, I would like to know what happened.”

She promised to rebuild the church that had already had its spire partially destroyed after being struck by a German bomb in 1941 during World War Two.

Ms Harrison told the Standard: “I’m absolutely heartbroken. That building has served the Christian community for 175 years. It’s our base where we have been reaching out, helping people, loving people.

“It’s a wonderful beacon of hope and to see it suffer in crushing devastation is completely heartbreaking.

“But it is a building, not the church. The church is the people and our work will carry on, our love will carry on.”

It appears the floor and walls decorated with ornate gold mosaics of Bible passages were destroyed in the blaze.

A local mother told the Standard of the panic she felt as she grabbed her children and fled her home as the fire threatened to spread to her home.

She said: “The clouds of white smoke were really dense and thick and could be seen rising up to the sky and then being blown onto the firefighters by the wind and then blown down toward Maida Vale. I’d never seen anything like it.

“I began to see bright orange flames flicker, which increased until I could see an almighty and vicious fire ravaging through the roof of the church.

“In a state of rising panic, I told my husband we needed to grab our two children, who were asleep, and get out.

“As we left we stood briefly at the front door, watching with sadness, as the front of the Church glowed bright orange from the raging fire. We could hear the loud crackling of the burning as though it were an almighty bonfire.”

She added: “I went to look at the church today and it is a shell. The spire is black and slightly crooked. The locals are devastated. Churchgoers have lost their place of worship. For a decade mothers, fathers, babies and toddlers have enjoyed daytime classical concerts of live musicians in that church.

“Now I can see people sitting in the calm church grounds surrounded by magnolia blossoms and other beautiful flowers. It is a real blow to the community.”

The National Churches Trust has described St Mark’s as an “architectural and historical treasure”.

The building has links to author Lewis Carroll and Queen Victoria’s son Prince Leopold and is near Abbey Road Studios and Lord’s cricket ground.

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