It is now almost 10 months since the devastating fire that left St Mary’s Beachamwell a shell, as these photographs demonstrate, of its former self. The fire that started on the morning of February 2nd, soon took hold and within minutes the entire thatched roof was ablaze.
The Norfolk Churches Trust is pleased to report that the restoration of this Grade 1 listed building has now commenced, and Peter Berendt, one of the churchwardens at Mary’s has kindly provided the Trust with an update of the works taking place.
“After the fire that gutted St Mary’s Church, Beachamwell in February this year there has been steady progress getting the restoration of the church underway. Phase 1 of the restoration is a multifaceted operation that began with the stabilisation of the ruin, the removal of the debris and the repair of the wall-heads, porch roof and tower. Since S&L Restorations, the main contractor, began the work in July the church has been cleared of the fire detritus, the building is stabilised and the bells, brasses and stained glass have been removed for safekeeping and restoration.”
The photograph below shows the bells being prepared for extraction through the roof, and one of the bells on the ground. Both bells were covered in molten lead and suffered cracks due to heat and water.
Peter continues, “in the last months the tower roof has been rebuilt, the tower’s external fabric has undergone repair, (both insured and uninsured elements), and at the time of writing this work is ongoing with internal work on the wall interiors, floors, and bell-frame. Currently the tower roof leadwork is being completed and the weathervane restored to its position. It is anticipated that this will be complete by the second half of November and at this stage the external tower scaffolding will be removed, revealing the restored Saxon round tower. Concurrently the north porch roof has been re-built and the nave, chancel and aisle roof wall-heads are being repaired and protected from weather until the new roof structures arrive in the early spring as part of Phase 2A of the restoration. This phase will include the restoration of the roofs, the thatching of the nave and chancel roof, the restoration of the windows and the doors. The PCC are heavily involved in this work, and we have also ensured as many parishioners as possible have been able to see the work first hand by having tours of the site in very small groups. If the whole project stays on track the church will be weathertight by mid-summer 2023, God-willing.”
As you can see from the photograph above which was recently taken the debris inside the church has been cleared now and is looking much tidier.
However, the eagle eyed amongst you may spot another feathered friend supervising the works at Beachamwell. Not the mythological phoenix rising from the ashes but a little owl. A symbol of wisdom, knowledge, and contemplation through the ages, this little creature has found the perfect spot to blend in and supervise, and perhaps that is more apt.
If you would like to download this information please click here to find out more about the restoration work and see more photos of the damage as it is repaired.