Enabling works nearing completion at Royston church devastated by fire

PUBLISHED: 16:20 09 July 2019 | UPDATED: 16:20 09 July 2019

Protective scaffold to tower and nave at Royston's St John the Baptist Church. Picture: Barker Associates

Protective scaffold to tower and nave at Royston's St John the Baptist Church. Picture: Barker Associates

Archant

The enabling works package is nearing completion at St John the Baptist Church in Royston, after the fire which devastated the building at the end of last year.

Charred timbers to Nave roof at Royston's St John the Baptist Church. Picture: Barker AssociatesCharred timbers to Nave roof at Royston's St John the Baptist Church. Picture: Barker Associates

The blaze - the cause of which remains unknown after arson was ruled out by investigators - tore through the Melbourn Street church on December 9, and services have since been held at community locations including Greneway School.

Following the erection of protective scaffold, contractors Bakers of Danbury were appointed to carry out works to salvage contents, clear the church of debris and stabilise remaining structures so that the full extent of the damage can be assessed.

Cracked bells at Royston's St John the Baptist Church. Picture: Barker AssociatesCracked bells at Royston's St John the Baptist Church. Picture: Barker Associates

Chartered architects and surveyors, Barker Associates, are leading the team responsible for the reinstatement.

READ MORE: Firefighters tackle huge Royston church fire

Robert Gould, from Barker Associates, said: "There is a lot of work to be done over the coming months to restore this iconic building.

Emergency services on the scene at Royston St John the Baptist Church, Melbourn Street after a fire inside. Picture: DANNY LOOEmergency services on the scene at Royston St John the Baptist Church, Melbourn Street after a fire inside. Picture: DANNY LOO

"Our initial findings have identified some serious damage to the roof, tower and nave floor as well as serious damage to the organ and bells.

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"However, many valuable architectural details - including memorial plaques, statues and stained glass - have been saved.

"With some of the improvements planned alongside the sensitive restoration, hopefully some long term good will come from this devastating event. We are confident that the church and local community will be pleased with the completed project."

Evidence of the fire damage at Royston St John the Baptist Church, Melbourn Street after a fire inside. Picture: DANNY LOOEvidence of the fire damage at Royston St John the Baptist Church, Melbourn Street after a fire inside. Picture: DANNY LOO

READ MORE: Repair works set to begin on Royston church after devastating blaze

Church vicar, reverend Heidi Huntley, said: " We were naturally devastated to see our church alight in the early hours of Sunday, December 9, last year, but what was thought to be a tragedy very quickly turned into a blessing. The emergency services acted professionally, swiftly and with compassion, reducing the damage and trauma to us and the church building.

"I would like to add my heartfelt thanks to Barker Associates, especially Robert Gould and James Wilson. From their initial visit they have reassured us by their expertise and professionalism, so what felt like an impossible burden has been shared.

"While the initial work has been moving apace, the local community have been hugely supportive in not only offering interim premises for prayer services but also in fundraising, which currently stands at more than £35,000 towards refurbishment works.

"We are looking forward to being able to update and refurbish the building ready for the years to come, where everyone can be made welcome and which can be used in a variety of ways for the benefit of the community.

"We have a long way to go before we are able to return to the church, but we are hopeful that it will be restored beautifully and become, once again, the iconic house of prayer that we all know and love. "

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