Storm Doris causes destruction to tower at Fakenham parish church

editorial image

The parish church of St Peter and St Paul Fakenham which was damaged by Storm Doris.

The top section of one of the stone pinnacles on the north east corner of the tower was sent flying in the fierce wind and struck the nave roof below with some force.

The noise was apparently heard by the rector from the rectory on Gladstone Road and also reported to him by an employee inside the neighbouring Fakenham Connect council offices.

Slates were shattered and sections of timber broken.

From inside the Trinity Room bits of sky were visible and debris had fallen through. Fortunately the area was empty at the time, although it had been busy during the morning.

Immediate steps were taken to rope off the gates into St Peter’s Garden and get in touch with both the insurers and the church architect.

With encouraging speed the experts arrived the next day and were escorted to the top of the tower to see for themselves what had happened.

In the short term, the most important step was to make the roof watertight and this was managed thanks to the quick response of local builders based in Foulsham.

Next on the scene was a steeplejack.

He reckoned that one of the other pinnacles was also dangerous, sufficiently enough to warrant the church car park below being made out of bounds.

This duly happened. In the weeks to come, access from scaffolding is due to take place so that proper repairs to both the pinnacles and also the nave roof can be carried out safely.

Meanwhile it seems that the life of the church will continue to go on in the busy run-up to Easter and beyond. Consideration will have to be given towards safe access through the main door.

Most arrivals at present cut across the car park because of the adjacent building work on the former Aldiss site. Some sort of barrier fencing will need to be fitted.

When these misfortunes take place it’s a reminder of the overall durability of the hundreds of medieval church towers in Norfolk.

Our region is probably blessed with more of these than any other county.

I have no great head for heights but on my occasional excursions up the spiral stairway to the trap door which opens on to the tower platform it’s impossible not to marvel at the craftsmanship which went into the construction of these amazing landmarks.

In a relatively flat landscape they are visible from miles around, a factor which encouraged their construction in the first place.

These days a much closer watch is kept on safety aspects, particularly if the church is in a town.

We no longer organise tower tours or fly flags to mark special occasions.

For a period the bells were silenced when repairs were called for but happily they have long been ringing out over the rooftops for weddings and Sunday services.

We must hope that despite this mishap the restoration goes ahead quickly and normal church routines continue uninterrupted.