Father Forgive Them As They Know Not What They Do - poignant wreath left at gutted church

PUBLISHED: 12:14 16 March 2010 | UPDATED: 09:33 02 June 2010

St Mary's Church Westry the day after the fire

St Mary's Church Westry the day after the fire

By Andrew Papworth A POIGNANT wreath bearing the words Father Forgive Them As They Know Not What They Do was placed alongside a 19th century Cambridgeshire church destroyed in a £1 million arson blaze. As the Mayor of March offered a £500 reward to catc

St Mary's Church Westry the day after the fire

By Andrew Papworth

A POIGNANT wreath bearing the words 'Father Forgive Them As They Know Not What They Do' was placed alongside a 19th century Cambridgeshire church destroyed in a £1 million arson blaze.

As the Mayor of March offered a £500 reward to catch the culprits responsible, workmen moved into the gutted St Mary's Church, Westry, March, to make the building safe.

The rector, the Rev Anthony Chandler, said: "There is such a great deal of sadness at what has happened.

St Mary's Church Westry the day after the fire

"There are so many memories for people at this church. However everything will carry on. We are determined to carry on as normal and keep on going."

The Rev Chandler vowed that services would continue in the parish hall and that weddings would relocate to another church.

Regular Sunday services will now take place in the parish room next to the church. Weddings and funerals will take place at St Peter's Church, where the Rev Chandler is also rector.

Builders have put barriers around St Mary's as they use a crane to take broken tiles off the roof one by one.

St Mary's Church Westry the day after the fire

Rev Chandler said everything inside the building had been "gutted", just one year after the church had been renovated to improve access.

Meanwhile pieces of charcoal littered the churchyard and were spread across graves.

Fire fighters said the church had been "100 per cent destroyed" apart from the exterior brickwork.

Callum Faint, station manager at Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue, said the building was thought to be "structurally unsound".

St Mary's Church Westry the day after the fire

The incident is being investigated by police as arson.

The Mayor of March, Cambridgeshire, said he hoped his £500 reward might help to catch the arsonists who destroyed the historic church.

Councillor John West also revealed he had been contacted with offers of donations - including a gift of £1,000- from people anxious to support a restoration project.

Cllr West said he had two uncles buried in the churchyard of St Mary's, Westry, and he always considered it to be "our family church".

He said: "It was my mother's first church, my grandfather farmed nearby but more importantly St Mary's is a key part of our town and its permanent loss would be an absolute disaster."

Meanwhile a support group on the social network site, Facebook, has already attracted 500 supporters.


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