This site is dedicated to Sir Walter Tapper, and the fabulous architecture that he left us.


Main Menu

St Erkenwald's History - Dereliction - Fire Ends Story of St. Erk's

Southend Evening Echo dated: Tuesday 11th November 1992

Story by CLAIR ORTON - Pictures: Mike Bellenie

A major fire may have sealed the fate today of a famous disused church in Southend.

An enormous blaze in the rain yesterday at St Erkenwald's church in York Road severely damaged the roof and made chances of preserving the building seem unlikely.

Fire officers tackling the flames believe it was started accidentally as one of the two owners carried out roof repairs.

The owners and Southend Council inspectors were on the site this morning assessing the damage, and York Road was to remain closed between Honiton Road and Southchurch Avenue until the spire's stability had been assessed.

Temporary fire station officer Mick Vanner, in charge of tackling the fire, said "It appears at this stage that one of the owners was carrying out repairs to the roof using a blow torch to melt some felt when the blaze must have accidentally started."

"He left the building when rain made it impossible to carry on working and it was only half an hour later that the flames started to show themselves."

The repairs follow recent pressure from Southend Council on the owners to make the roof weatherproof after slates had been removed to protect them from vandals.

Now the future of the whole building could at last be decided according to Liberal Democrat councillor Geoff Cossey, a former member of the now defunct Friends of St Erkenwald's and a member of Southend Building Preservation Trust.

He said: "As a member of the planning committee I have long fought for the Grade Two listed building to be sympathetically developed so the interior can at least be preserved.

"But the cost of repairing the roof after this blaze makes that now look very unlikely and sadly it would seem likely that the committee will agree to demolition."

The badly damaged spire, which was declared unsafe by senior fire officers, meant road blocks, set up at the height of the blaze, remained in place throughout the night.

An old people's home, in the former vicarage adjacent to the church, was believed to be in danger from the spire and six residents were evacuated to nearby Porters Grange School.

They spent the night at Balmoral House old people's home, Westcliff.

The fire, spotted by a police patrol, started just after 3pm.

Shop assistants in the High Street reported seeing 50ft flames lighting up the sky as the spire bore the brunt of the blaze.

Station officer Vanner said strong winds added to problems. The fire was difficult to get at and took an hour to put out.

He said: "The wind made it very hard for us. We could not get at it from inside."

The fire, the second in the last few weeks at the church, is just one of many problems the disused building has suffered since it was bought for development purposes by Mr P Beaty and Mr K Walter.

Last New Year's Eve an impromptu acid house party was staged inside the building and locals frequently complain of tramps and youths hanging around the site.

St Erkenwald's on fire   St Erkenwald's Steeple Ablaze!

This article and corresponding images are reproduced with kind permission of the Evening Echo.

Next Page

Sir Walter Tapper ~ Sir Walter J. Tapper ~ Gothic Revivalist Architect ~ St Erkenwald, Southend-on-Sea ~ Church of the Annunciation, Bryanston Street ~ Church of the Ascension, Malvern Link ~ Guildford Grammar School Chapel