Hopeful for the future

09 October 2023

Congregation of fire ravaged St Mark’s Church in Maida Vale look ahead.

St Marks, Maida Vale interior after the fire

Specialist insurer Ecclesiastical has released images from inside St Mark’s Church in Maida Vale revealing the scale of the damage following a devastating fire earlier this year.

The photos, taken from scaffolding erected around the church, show what remains of the Victorian gothic building following the blaze that occurred on the evening of Thursday 26 January.

As the church’s insurer, Ecclesiastical arranged for loss adjustors to attend the site the next day to assess the damage to the much-loved community church. Due to the scale of the damage the priority has been making the site secure and ensuring the church is stable.

One of the main challenges of the project has been the removal of several trusses precariously positioned above the nave, ensuring no further damage to external walls. Structural Engineers, specialist scaffolders and demolition firms have all been consulted and a solution has been developed, with work beginning soon.

Once that work is completed debris clearance will begin with archaeological and heritage experts supporting– identifying what can be preserved and restored as the project progresses.

The latest images were captured during a visit to the site in September where members of the church PCC, London Diocese, loss adjustors and Ecclesiastical Insurance met to inspect the site and to get an update on the latest developments.

For Revd Kate Harrison, this was her first time up on the scaffolding surrounding the church and seeing the scale of the damage brought mixed emotions; “It was really moving to be back inside the church” she said. “I was able to go up onto the scaffold and see the scale of the damage below.

“It really brought home the devastation caused by the fire and the task ahead – but we’re hopeful for the future.”

Richard Coleman and Helen Richards of Ecclesiastical with Revd Kate Harrison

Ecclesiastical’s unrivalled expertise in protecting communities, properties and the nation’s heritage for 135 years has helped them to restore other historic churches damaged as a result of fires.

In 2017 the Church of the Ascension in Salford, Greater Manchester was gutted in a blaze which caused significant damaged columns, roof structures, stone and brickwork and stained glass windows. The restoration of the church was completed in 2022, bringing a much-loved community asset back into use.

Helen Richards, church operations director at Ecclesiastical visited St Mark’s alongside colleagues from the claims team and said: “I was lost for words at the scale of the devastation when I visited the church. It’s always difficult for a community to see their church like this and it can be hard to look past the damage caused.

“However, we have a huge amount of experience working with churches on these complex restorations. Our expertise is what sets us apart from other insurers. We understand that historic buildings often need complex solutions to help preserve the heritage and prevent further damage and we’ve engaged with specialists to safely develop a plan to progress with the project.

“That’s the reason customers choose to insure with us and we will be there to support them every step of the way as we bring the church back to life so it can serve the community for another 200 years and beyond.”

During the summer months, the church has hosted services in the vicarage garden but with winter approaching Ecclesiastical has helped to fund a refurbishment of the church hall to provide a warm and welcoming space where services can continue indoors. It will also give the church the opportunity to restart hosting events which had become a fixture of the church calendar and an invaluable source of income.

The church will also be carrying out a consultation to establish whether the church makes any changes or modifications to the fabric of the building as part of the restoration.