Fire at the all Saints Church in Fleet

31 March

Last week the rebuilding group met with representatives of the Diocesan Advisory Committee, Heritage for England, The Victorian Society, Hart District Council, and the Church Buildings Council. From this experience, it is clear that… The Diocesan Advisory Committee are very supportive and encouraging of our attempts to rebuild All Saints in a way that will serve future generations. The heritage societies (because that’s their job) are likely to be resistant to plans that change the church structurally. Because of this, we have to make a strong case for any such changes, showing how they will benefit our community and serve our mission and ministry, to the extent that the need for change is seen as a higher priority than the need to conserve. With this in mind, the Rebuilding group are working hard to put together a robust ‘Statement of need’ for the project. The rebuilding group believe it is right to press on with trying to achieve structural change to the inside of the church because that was the wish of the large majority of those who responded to our recent consultation, and because they believe this will best serve our future mission and ministry. This will not however be easy to achieve, so please give us your prayerful support.

24 March

Following our consultation meeting two weeks ago, a large majority of those attending signified their preference for the options that would provide some structural change to the inside of the church (i.e. removal of pillars). The PCC concurred with this preference. The rebuilding group met with representatives of the Diocesan Advisory committee, Heritage for England, the Victorian Society and the church buildings council. There was a helpful discussion around our options, and encouragement for us to produce a robust formal statement of our needs. It is clear that we will have to make a strong case for structural change to our church if we are to get permission to do it. Please note that we are still some way from submitting final plans or even deciding which option ultimately to choose. 

17 Feb

The Rebuilding committee had a very fruitful meeting with the architects and quantity surveyors this week. The outcome is this… The feasibility study has produced four alternative plans for rebuilding All Saints church. All are achievable financially, though at least one would require some fund raising. There will be an open meeting on Saturday 11th March at 10 am at the parish centre for all who are interested to view and discuss the options. The PCC on 20th March will consider their preferred option. We will meet with the diocesan advisory committee on 22nd March to get their initial response to these options.

10 Feb - New Donation

A generous gift of £215 has been received from from Fleet ’41 Club’ towards Arise All Saints.

22 Jan - Co-op Donation

A most generous donation of £500 was donated towards the fund by the Cooperative Funeral Directors.

15 Jan - Work Continues

Work continues towards the rebuilding of All Saints church in a way that will honour the past and build for the future. The PCC are looking at 5 alternative options for how the church might serve our needs in the future. These will be shared with the parish more widely once it is known a) How much each option will cost, b) Whether permission is likely to granted for any of these options. In furtherance of this a statement of the architectural significance of the church and its contents has been drawn up, and a similar document of our needs for the new church will be produced shortly. These are formal documents required for the application of permissions and faculties. The rebuilding group will be meeting with the DAC (Diocesan Advisory Committee) in the very near future to gauge their likely response to some of the options being considered. Once all this information has been gathered, it will be shared with the parish and the project will take a big leap forward. Meanwhile, thank you once again for your continued patience.

9 Dec - Drawings

Over the last few weeks the rebuilding committee have been working hard with the architects to produce a set of drawings that a) Address the needs identified by our consultation process and b) are in a format that is clear enough for us all to see and understand all the options. We are very hopeful that before Christmas the PCC will be able to view the plans for four alternative options, and that at an early point in the new year ALL our congregations and others will be able to see these plans - clear, costed, and with some idea from the diocese and others about whether they can be achieved. This we feel is the most positive way forward, and most likely to produce the best outcome. 

1Nov - Fence Banners

The All Saints arise banner and boards with children’s pictures are nearly ready to go up on the fence around the church. Would anyone like to volunteer to help with mounting them on the fence?

19 Oct - The Appeal

Daniel Finnerty has had his sentence cut from 4 to 3.5 years and his three year extended license period overturned after the Court of Appeal heard that the teenager was on a 'positive trajectory' in his life. A statement from Rev Mark Hayton, originally presented at Winchester Crown Court before sentencing, was read out at the appeal. It stated that Rev Hayton thought he spoke on behalf of the parish of Fleet on the whole when saying we harbour no ill feeling towards Daniel. The ruling means that Daniel will be entitled to automatic release halfway through his sentence and will serve only 21 months. The teenager has been diagnosed with ADHD. Mr Justice Nicol urged that although 18 he should be allowed to carry out his sentence in the children's home.

9 Oct - Report from the Church News Sheet

This week the rebuilding committee met with our architects, Acanthus Clews. We are on target, hopefully, to see some provisional plans by the second week in November – which will be very exciting! These will offer some alternatives for us to consider, and will, in time be shared with the whole church community. We are planning to place a ‘Portacabin’ in the churchyard to provide additional temporary space for junior church, the parish office etc. We are working hard to obtain more chairs with arms, perhaps better seating for all, and to provide better service booklets, for those worshipping at the church centre. Tell us if there are other ways we can make this a better experience. We are close to finalising the pictures and banners that will hopefully make the cladding around the church scaffolding more attractive to look at. Please be assured that a lot of people are working very hard to get the rebuilding done as quickly as possible.

30 Sep - Report from the Church News Sheet

The Building committee have completed a questionnaire from our Architects seeking clarification of some outcomes from our consultation process. We will be meeting with our Architects on Wednesday 5th – please pray for that meeting. We are hoping to obtain more chairs for those of limited mobility who worship at the church centre. Also, we are working on more user friendly service books – coming soon!

16 Sep - Report from the Church News Sheet

As reported last week, we have engaged Acanthus Clews architects of Banbury to digest the results of our rebuilding consultation and draw up some preliminary plans for us to consider. This they are currently doing, and we will be able to see the results in the next few months. At the same time we are working with them on the appointment of other professionals we will need to support us in this work, e.g. quantity surveyors, structural engineers, and conservators. Please hold all this in your prayers.

9 Sep 2016 - Report from the Church News Sheet

There has not been an update for a while, but that does not mean that nothing has been happening. As you know we engaged a firm of Architects, Acanthus Clews of Banbury, to work with us in translating the vision that came out of our consultation exercise into some actual designs of what our rebuilt church might look like. They have been busy looking at all the material we have gathered, drawings of how the church was, a detailed survey of how it is, and our hopes for what it might become. 

They have asked us a number of detailed supplementary questions about how we actually use the church and how we might use it in future. They are also working with us on engaging other professionals who will work with us on the project, a quantity surveyor, a conservationist, a structural engineer etc. In short we are busy putting together the team who will help All Saints to ‘Arise’. All this takes a lot of work and a lot of time.

Within a short time we hope to have several alternative plans that we can show to everyone and hopefully, before long begin the road to rebuilding. Please be assured once again, that not a brick will be laid without anyone who wants to know, knowing exactly what is going to be built.

Meanwhile, we would like to thank you all for your patience, prayer and support, and
congratulate the All Saints congregation for the way that they embraced worship in the church centre with such loyalty, faithfulness, flexibility, and joyfulness. We have a growing
congregation, despite our difficulties, and thanks be to God for that

9 April 2016

The work of scaffolding and erection of 'Top Hat' temporary roof is nearly finished, it should be completed by the end of this coming week. 

The church have received 26 responses from firms of architects who are interested in drawing up plans for the rebuilding. These are currently being analysed with a view to forming a short list who will be invited to submit proposals. 

The church asks that you continue to pray for all who are involved in this project, and to offer thanks for all the blessings so far received.' 

Arsonist Jailed

17 year old teenager Daniel Finnerty from Fleet has been jailed for 5 years for causing £4.5 million in damages when he sprayed a cross on the wall near the alter of the 153 year old All Saints Church and set it alight on 22 June 2015.

Winchester court was told that Finnerty had entered the building to burn an ancient bible on the alter six days earlier. Fortunately a church warden smelled burning and put out the smoldering bible before it set fire.

Finnerty admitted one count of arson and one of arson being reckless as to whether life was in danger.He had had a difficult upbringing and suffered from ADHD, used cannabis, methadone and drank from the age of 15.

Judge Keith Cutler CBE described the incident as "chilling" and that the photos of the church after the fire looked "horrific". 

Crown Prosecutor Sharon Senior stated "It has left the community heartbroken to see their church destroyed."

Rebuilding Fund.

The Church fund towards rebuilding stands at £19,000. Support has been provided by Hart Council, The Diocese of Guilford, the insurers and loss adjusters. A specialist salvage team from Richford's have been working to clear the site and church from debris and making the area safe and secure. 

The church is seeking the views of the Fleet community as to how it should progress with the re-building. They are holding three public meetings to update the public and to discuss issues surrounding rebuilding. These will be held at the church community centre on Sep 19th at 10am, Sep 24th at 7.30pm and Oct 10th at 10am. If you cannot attend put your ides in writing to: The PCC, Fleet Parish Community Centre, Church Rd, Fleet. GU51 4NN.

A 17 year old youth has been charged with arson and arson with intent.

About the Fire.

The fire started in evening of June 15th.

Fire brigades from Fleet, Rushmoor, Hartley Wintney and Odiham fought for over three hours before the blaze was under control. They could not save the roof of the church which has been completely destroyed although the brickwork has remained intact.

A 17 year old boy has been arrested on suspicion of arson. He was later bailed pending further investigation. Another boy aged 16 is helping police with their inquiries..

Children attending a ballet class within the adjacent church hall had to be evacuated to safety.

The 150th anniversary of the church was celebrated only last year.

Many local residents were huddled on the pavement in Church road, some in tears, as they looked at the ruin that was their church. Many were allowed to collect their belongings from within the church.

Thankfully no one was injured.

The vicar, Mark Hayton, has said the church was fully insured and plans are to rebuild to the original condition.

The church community is to keep track of its re-building using photos and information from the public.

History of the Church.

In 1857 Mrs. Charles Lefroy died, and the squire resolved to build a church in her memory at Fleet. The first stone of the church was laid on 6th August 1860. Mr. Charles Lefroy and his two little motherless children, aged 11 and 12, were present. His own death in April 1861, occurred before the church was finished, and the work was carried on and completed by Mrs. Lefroy's father, Sir James Walker. It was designed by Mr. Burgess, the architect, in the style of an Italian Basilica, with a small apse for the chancel, and the narthex at the west end. The consecration took place in 1862 and a District was assigned to it and placed under the charge of the Rev. William Plummer. The church of All Saints contains a beautiful tomb with carved figures of the founder and his wife in effigy. The inscription on it reads as follows: To Janet the most dear wife of Charles Edward Lefroy, Esq. on whome may Jesue have mercy". To record the benefactions of her father, James Waker, Fsq. CE., F.R.S., to the parish of Crondall and his most liberal contributions to Christ's work of this building; this monument is placed MDCCCLXL". Also to Charles Edward Lefroy, Esq., born March 9th, 1810, died April 17th 1861, founder of this church, who in the midst of his work for God's Glory and the good of the parish, was taken to his rest".

The following is an extract from Notices of the Parish of Crondall by Sir J.H. Lefroy, R.A., privately printed in 1968: 'The last of the works it was given to my brother to inaugurate though not to complete, was the church at Fleet, in 1860-61. Many and mixed feelings induced him to select this distant corner of the parish for a monumental church to his wife's memory. It was not at the time much wanted, although a population was beginning to collect in the neighbourhood, evinced by the fact of a small railroad station having been established there, but it was certain to be wanted at no distant date, and the wild country, the open heath, the absence of elements of opposition, the pleasure of exercising a sort of creative power, all turned the scale against the suggestions to lay out the money in other ways nearer home. He did not live to complete the design, it was completed by James Walker, her father.'

The cost was:                                                                         £   s. d.

By  subscription                                                         724.0.0.

C. E. Lefroy, or his estates by money or material                        1122.0.0.

James Walker exclusive of an endowment of
£75 per annum                                                                       1477.0.0.


The early Marriage Registers of Fleet contain many items of interest. The first marriage in the Parish Church was eighteen months after the consecration, and neither the bride nor the bridegroom lived in Fleet; the marriage was after the granting of the Superintendent Registrar's certificate; the entry in the register was wrong and had to be corrected two days later by the Rev. W.H. Plummer in the presence of the parties concerned. The second entry is also of interest, for the bridegroom aged 24 was a widower, and neither of the witnesses could write, and had to make a mark. Of the first eighteen marriages there were eight in which at least one of the parties could not write. Another interesting feature is the description given under the heading 'Rank or Professions', 'Coachman or Groom' figures frequently in the early days. 'Oil and Colourman', 'Railway Gateman' also appear and a remarkable number of 'Gentlemen'. In the first ten years after the opening of the church there were only eighteen marriages. The first Register book was not completed until 1922, and contains the records of less than 500 marriages, many of which were of families whose names are still frequently met in Fleet today.

The Church took over from a previously built  school in 1863, and thereafter it was run as a Church School, supported by the Church, a little Government grant and the scholars' pence. (Each pupil was required to pay 2 pence per week towards the cost of their education).

In 1934 the church was enlarged to the west, which included the abolition of the narthex; and the removal of the west doorway with its sculptured typanum of Christ in Majesty to the south side, and a similar doorway of the Transfiguration (sculptured by Mr G. Parsons) being provided on the north side, and the removal of the founders tomb from near the altar to the south west corner of the extended north aisle.

In 1958 a new Lady Chapel and large modern vestry were added and dedicated by Ivor, Lord Bishop of Guildford, on the feast of Corpus Christi.

From time to time the church has been enriched by various gifts. The Processional Cross is a memorial to Lady Grace Bridges, and the silver cross and candlesticks on the high altar were presented by Lady Crookshank. The pair of eighteenth century Italian candlesticks were given in memory of the Rev J. Walker, and the large standard candlesticks in memory of Mr John Stronach.

The three windows in the apse representing Our Lord in Majesty, St Agnes Virgin and Martyr, and St Mary of Bethany are memorials to Colonel Bircham, Mildred Spurling and Grace Clare Oakley; and the large west window is in memory of William Mascall Kenrick, who carved the panels on the high altar. The Lectern was a gift in memory of Colonel Birchham. The statue of our Lady to the right of the altar was presented by Mr John Purser, A.RJ.B.A., and the della Robbia plaque of the Holy Family by one of the Clergy. The small cover for the font was designed and executed by Mr Seddon in memory of Miss Chinnock, a generous benefactor to the church.