A narrow escape for St Martin's Church in Exeter

Last week was full of anxiety and trepidation as we sat watching a huge fire rip through the historic row of buildings next to St. Martin's Church in Exeter. We cannot express enough gratitude and thanks to the Devon and Somerset Fire Brigade for preventing the spread of the fire and saving our church.

When the fire had been brought under control there followed the risk of collapse of the surrounding buildings. These have now been made safe and finally, seven days after the fire, I was allowed in to inspect the building. 

I was expecting damage from air born glowing embers, smoke blackening, thermal damage from the extreme heat of the adjacent fire and damage from the foam and water used by the fire brigade to protect the church. We were extremely lucky.  Though the tower, roof and gutters were full of debris none had set light to the building. The windows need cleaning from the smoke but none had buckled from the heat and more surprisingly, our historic glazing was airtight and hadn't let any smoke in to discolour the internal walls.

Some limewash has been washed off the front elevation which will need reapplying and there is cracking in the Heavitree stone which will need to be closely monitored. 

It was so very nearly the story of the loss of a 900-year old church that had survived the Blitz and so many significant events in the history of Exeter. We remain ever grateful to the 150 men and women of the fire brigade who worked incredibly hard in dangerous circumstances to save our heritage.

Unfortunately, not all of our buildings are as lucky as St Martin's but we work tirelessly to make sure that heritage is preserved and made open and available to all. For more information on how you can help save historic churches at risk, visit our campaigns page and discover the amazing work which is happening across the Trust.