27 January 2023

London church described as ‘historical treasure’ destroyed by fire

27 January 2023

Authorities are investigating after a heritage-listed northwest London church described as an “architectural and historical treasure” was destroyed by fire.

Some 80 firefighters battled the blaze at St Mark’s Church in Hamilton Terrace, St John’s Wood, from 11.19pm on Thursday until it was under control at 2.22am on Friday, the London Fire Brigade (LFB) said.

The brigade said there were no injuries, though it noted the whole two-storey Anglican building was “destroyed”.

Residents were earlier asked to keep doors and windows closed due to the significant amount of smoke being produced.

The LFB said it used three ladders, including the tallest in Europe at 64 metres, as towers to distribute water evenly and extinguish the blaze.

The National Churches Trust had listed St Mark’s as a Grade II* Victorian church, describing it as an “architectural and historical treasure” which finished construction between 1846 and 1847.

A Grade II* building differs from Grade II in that it is considered a particularly important building of more than special interest which has extra merit, such as an outstanding interior or exterior.

It contained “stunning” mosaics by the Salviati family as well as highly decorative marble flooring in the chancel, with the overall Gothic-styled design the work of architect Thomas Cundy Junior.

It was located near Abbey Road Studios and Lord’s Cricket Ground, and had links to author Lewis Carroll and Queen Victoria’s son Prince Leopold.

The LFB said the cause of the fire is under investigation.

There was another onlooker standing next to me who said 'it's like Grenfell all over again'.

Local resident Shohaib Shah said he was “devastated” watching the church burn on Thursday evening, adding that it will be “sorely missed by the community”.

“I thought a family member may have burnt something when making food… I took a look outside where I could see lots of smoke covering the street and an orange light in the sky and emergency services going around the corner towards Abercorn Place,” the 21-year-old told the PA news agency.

“When I arrived there at 12:22 am, the fire was ferocious and I could see that it wouldn’t stop any time soon because it looked like it was re-igniting every few minutes.

“There was another onlooker standing next to me who said ‘it’s like Grenfell all over again’.

“I’m devastated, I remember seeing children and families going in and sometimes during the summer you would see families sitting and relaxing outside in the gardens – it’s going to be sorely missed in the community.”

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