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Restoration underway on fire-gutted Beachamwell church

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The fire-ravaged parish church at Beachamwell could soon be rising from the ashes as work gets underway to restore the 11th century building.

The community was devastated when St Mary's, which stands in the centre of the village, was gutted in a blaze which broke out in its thatched roof in February.

The church, which is Grade 1 listed, was fully insured so it can be re-built but it is likely to take until 2025 to finish the work – provided there are no glitches along the way.

Flames rise from St Mary's church, Beachamwell
Flames rise from St Mary's church, Beachamwell

“It is difficult to give a precise figure but a rough estimate of the cost would be £3.5 million,” said Peter Berendt who is one of the churchwardens.

He said that some work has already been carried out to stabilise the building and the next step will be to remove the church bells ready for the restoration of the tower.

The bells will be lifted out of the top of the tower sometime towards the end of July. They will go to be checked for cracks and any damage from the heat.

The fire damaged St Mary's Church at Beachamwell. (55138818)
The fire damaged St Mary's Church at Beachamwell. (55138818)

Mr Berendt said this is the first time they have been removed so the investigations might uncover more of their history.

In the meantime there will also be archaeological searches to remove parts of the structure and fabric that can be restored. This will include the village memorial which, said Mr Berendt, was shattered into hundreds of pieces.

“Where possible everything will be replaced like-for-like,” he said.

“We have experts project managing the job and they have contacts with all of the right craftsmen.”

Once the tower is finished work will turn to the main body of the church and the replacement of the thatched roof. Ironically, repair work funded by the Friends of the church was being carried out when a spark from a welder started the fire.

Mr Berendt said that a parish survey was carried out and 75 per cent of the parish said they wanted the church to be rebuilt.

He became a churchwarden immediately after the fire and recalls the fateful day. “I went out to play golf and when I came back there were ten fire engines and police on site and flames coming out of the roof.

“I was married in that church, our children were christened there and I look out over it every day.”

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