Royston church fire: Fundraisers hope to future proof St John's one year on from devastating blaze

PUBLISHED: 06:59 09 December 2019

Volunteers are set for a 'sponsor a chair' fundraiser in aid of Royston's St John's Church, which suffered a fire one year ago. Picture: David Atkins

Volunteers are set for a 'sponsor a chair' fundraiser in aid of Royston's St John's Church, which suffered a fire one year ago. Picture: David Atkins

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A new fundraising campaign to help protect the future of Royston's St John the Baptist Church is being launched today to coincide with the first anniversary of a fire which ripped through the parish church 12 months ago.

Royston's parish church a year on from the fire. Picture: Jayne WhiteRoyston's parish church a year on from the fire. Picture: Jayne White

The huge blaze broke out during the early hours of December 9, 2018, and caused serious damage to the roof, tower and nave floor, as well as the organ and bells.

Police initially treated the incident as arson, but later concluded that the fire had not been started deliberately. The cause remains unknown to this day.

Now, a year on, fundraiser Sarah Dingley and a group of volunteers are asking the public to 'sponsor a chair' in order to raise funds to future proof the Grade I-listed church in Melbourn Street.

St John's was added to Historic England's Heritage at Risk Register in October, so Sarah and fellow fundraisers are keen to do all they can to safeguard its future.

Fire damage could be seen at Royston St John the Baptist Church in the wake of the blaze in December 2018. Picture: Danny LooFire damage could be seen at Royston St John the Baptist Church in the wake of the blaze in December 2018. Picture: Danny Loo

She said: "The fire at St John's is arguably the most significant event to have taken place in Royston in decades.

"The church are taking the necessity to refurbish following the fire as an opportunity to meet the needs of the growing community, both now and for many years into the future."

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The money raised through sponsorship of the chairs - which will be in place for many years - will go towards improving accessibility.

Volunteers are set for a 'sponsor a chair' fundraiser in aid of Royston's St John's Church, which suffered a fire one year ago. Picture: David AtkinsVolunteers are set for a 'sponsor a chair' fundraiser in aid of Royston's St John's Church, which suffered a fire one year ago. Picture: David Atkins

For example, it would target things such as creating disabled access toilets and making it fit for the use of toddler groups.

Sponsored chairs will have a plaque fitted and can be used as a memorial to a loved one, to celebrate the birth of a child or to mark any special occasion.

The initiative comes following the decision to remove 19th-century pews in August, to make the space more adaptable.

The pews were subject of a case in the Consistory Court of the Diocese of St Albans, after Rev Heidi Huntley and churchwardens Nick Hindle and Rob Fox petitioned to have them removed.

The church rebuild continues - with internal scaffolding now up - with services being held at Royston King James Academy in Garden Walk, Royston Methodist Church in Queens Road, and at Royston Town Hall.

If you would like to sponsor a chair call 01763 246371 or email roystonpc.churchoffice.gmail.com.

Visit roystonparishchurch.org.uk to find out more about the church.

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