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MARIANSLEIGH CHURCH FIRE - SUNDAY 11th DECEMBER 1932

 

Thr scene after the fire at Mariansleigh Church
The scene after the fire at Mariansleigh Church

 

From The Western Times

16 December 1932

MARIANSLEIGH CHHURCH DESTROYED BY FIRE

VICAR FORCED BACK BY SMOKE AND FLAMES

OUTBREAK AFTER EARLY SERVICE

RESTORATION ONLY JUST COMPLETED

"The Vicar of Mariansleigh, Rev. W. V. Tatham on Sunday stood with his parishioners grouped around their church watching its destruction by fire. Only a short while ago they had spent £1800 on its restoration, and now all that remains of the fine old structure are four blackened walls, the porch at the western end and square tower with its embattled top and its peal of five bells. This was all that the strenuous efforts of the South Molton Fire brigade, with the help of the villagers, could save from the conflagration.

Situated high up on a hill overlooking the valley of the River Mole on one side and the borders of Exmoor in the opposite direction, Mariansleigh Church has been a landmark for generations. It dates back to the 12th century and had its origin in the seventh century.

As it was  burning on Sunday, the flames and smoke could be seen for several miles around.

Th fire broke out shortly after the early morning celebration of Holy Communion.

The Rev. W. V. Tatham told our reporter " Everything appeared quite all right when I left the church about nine o'clock. An hour later, the Verger, Mr. J. Holcombe, who lives close by, saw smoke coming from the church and immediately informed me. I went to see what was wrong and found that the roof was on fire by the flue pipe of the stove, and was burning to such an extent that pieces of the ceiling and roof were falling, I realised that there was not a shadow of a chance of our saving our church with the flames being fanned by such a strong wind.

Mr. Tatham said at the present juncture it was quite impossible for him so say whether the church could be rebuilt. They had not yet raised the whole of the money spent a short while ago on the restoration of the church. They still required another £700 to meet the cost of that.

Mr. Tatham has only been Vicar of the parish for about three and a half years and during that time has worked unceasingly for the restoration of the church and the preservation of its ancient features, one of the most interesting was the granite font, probably of Norman date, having a square, panelled, basin. This was destroyed in the fire, together with the beautiful stained glass windows, some of which were very old, the Estey organ, the new altar and hangings in the sanctuary - in fact the whole contents of the edifice other than the tower.

Mr Tatham said the church records were kept in a steel safe and he hoped these would be unharmed, while the very valuable 16th century Communion plate was safe, he having taken this to the Vicarage with him after the service.

In the restoration work, an entirely new roof was put on the church and the tower was also strengthened.

The fire brigade under Captain Hawkes had a plentiful supply of water. Fanned by such a strong wind, the fire spread with great rapidity and, as the Vicar stated, the church was doomed from the  time the outbreak was discovered.

It was fortunate for house property in the immediate vicinity that the wind was blowing the opposite direction."

The newly completed restoration photographed shortly before the fire

The newly completed restoration photographed shortly after completion

The stove and its pipe can be seen on the left

 

THE OFFICIAL STATEMENT PRINTED IN THE SAME EDITION OF THE WESTERN TIMES:

 

"Messrs William Sanders and Son, Ecclesiastical and building contractors of 32 East Street, South Molton, who were responsible for the carrying out of the recent restoration of Mariansleigh Church, which was destroyed by fire on Sunday, have issued the following statement:

 

"At a conference held in Mariansleigh Church on Monday 12th December 1932, the day after the lamentable calamity when this ancient and recently restored edifice was destroyed by fire, the architect of the restoration, Mr. Harbottle Reed of Exeter, Mr. Crane, from the London office of the Fire Insurance Company and Mr. Charles Ware, fire loss assessor of Exeter, were all emphatic in their opinion that the cause of the fire did not originate in the stove pipe as had been reported."

 

 
 
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