Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Villagers help rescue Hartley Wintney church pews from blaze

Father Simon Thomson
Image caption Father Simon Thomson said he felt "optimistic" about the church's future

Villagers helped rescue pews and bibles after a Hampshire church caught fire.

The blaze, which started in a nearby shed, destroyed the roof of the Catholic Church of St Thomas More, in Hartley Wintney, on Tuesday evening.

People rushed to help firefighters carry the heavy wooden pews and bookcases out of the building.

Parish priest Father Simon Thomson said the local Anglican priest has offered to host the congregation in his church while repairs are made.

Alan Fitton was driving past and stopped to help with the salvage operation.

He said: "There were a lot of village people watching, and they came in to lend a hand, taking out everything that could be salvaged."

Image copyright Yateley Fire Station
Image caption Firefighters salvaged items including pews from the church

Father Thomson said he was "optimistic" about the church's future, despite the damage.

"As a priest you deal with all types of things, I was just thinking of the suicides and the abuse situations I've dealt with," he said.

"This is a building - we can replace it, and all will be well. That's what we have insurance for."

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service said the fire started in a shed at the rear of the church which spread, engulfing the church roof.

Image caption The blaze started in a nearby shed and engulfed the roof of the 1960s church

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