Inspiring moment as storm damaged church is restored

24 August 2022

The six-month restoration project to replace a church spire that came down during high winds will be completed this week.

Stonemason replacing stone on church steeple

St. Thomas’ Church in Wells, Somerset attracted international attention when the spire of the 18th Century church fell down as the UK was battered by high winds during Storm Eunice in February.

Footage of the incident was shared by news outlets around the world, with the dramatic images capturing the spire falling to the ground damaging a path around the church in the process. Thankfully no further damage was caused to the church property.

Specialist insurer Ecclesiastical has led the restoration project to get the spire reinstated using its extensive network of specialist suppliers who are experts in restoring damaged heritage properties.

The Gloucester-based insurance company was formed 135 years ago and specialises in providing cover to churches and the communities they serve.

Sally Strachey Historic Conservation stonemasons based in Wells were appointed to work on the restoration of the spire which suffered significant damage as it fell from the church to the ground.

The spire was painstakingly pieced back together before a copy was carved from stone to create an exact replica using traditional stone carving techniques. The original weathervane which was damaged by the fall has also been straightened and restored.

To help avoid the spire coming down in future, the replacement spire will also have additional reinforcement in place.

The project has been completed within six-months of the spire coming down and the church’s place in the skyline of Wells can once again be appreciated by the community and visitors to the city.

Jeremy Trott, claims director at Ecclesiastical Insurance, said: “As a specialist insurer with a history of 135 years of care and expertise for our church customers, we are uniquely familiar with the pressures churches face.

“Like many other people we saw the video clip of the spire coming down on the news and immediately got in touch with the church. Thankfully no-one was injured and the damage was minimal. It could have been a lot worse.

“This is so often the moment of truth for customers and I’m delighted we’ve been able to work with contractors with the skills and knowledge to help restore St. Thomas’ Church to its former glory.”

Revd Claire Towns, priest in charge at St. Thomas’ church, said: “We’re now in August, six months since we lost the top of the spire. It’s going back up in the next few days. That is a wonderful thing physically, but also symbolically - the restored spire a symbol of hope and of new life for the people of this parish and city.

“We are hugely thankful to all those who have offered us prayers, encouragement and support in the past few months, and of course we are thankful to our insurer, Ecclesiastical, for making this possible and for the personal care and skill of all those involved in the spire works.”

James Preston, director at Sally Strachey Historic Conservation, said: “Working on a project like this has been the opportunity of a lifetime for a team like ours. We have combined the uses of our in-house steeplejacking and rope access team and masons, from the initial emergency works through to the complete renewal of the top section of the spire in our workshops.

“We have also worked alongside a great team of professionals to come up with the design and strengthening work. This will help to ensure the success of the new works going forward into our new unknown and ever changing climate.

“I hope no more spires fall in my time as a mason, but if one does, we’d now be well-versed.”

The installation of the spire will take five days to complete, with a timelapse camera capturing the process.