St Mark's Hamilton Terrace (c) Andy Scott Wikipicture
(c) Andy Scott Wikipicture

Fire - the worst enemy of a church


Although it is not clear what caused the tragic fire at St Mark's church in St John's Wood, London, it is a sad reminder of the damage that can result from a fire.

In 2022, Richard Carr-Archer, a former Trustee of the National Churches Trust, wrote in our Annual Review about the importance of fire prevention.

"Fire is surely the worst enemy of a church - it can destroy a roof, its trusses and damage the contents unless the conflagration is spotted early."

"Famously at York Minster the South Transept roof was lost in 1984, almost certainly caused by a lightning bolt hitting an electrical junction box which ignited the wood particles floating in the air causing the fire to spread. The roof spaces are now sub-divided into compartments to minimise
fire spread, with a fire monitoring alarm system and an extensive lightning conductor installed."

"More recently, in 2019, it is believed an electrical fault may have caused the catastrophe at Notre Dame in Paris where it seems safeguards and repairs might have fallen badly behind."

"So, if you look after a church, make sure that a fire alarm is fitted, and that it works. That is particularly important if a church uses thatch for its roofing which is particularly vulnerable. Another essential is an up-to-date and regularly inspected lightning conductor."

Richard Carr-Archer  is an architect based in York and is currently a member of the York Diocesan Committee and Wakefield Cathedral Fabric Committee.