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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 November 2005, 20:04 GMT
'Extensive' fire damage to church
St Barnabas' Church
The damage is expected to run into hundreds of thousands of pounds
Fire damage to one of East Sussex's largest churches could cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to repair, architects have estimated.

Investigators believe the blaze at St Barnabas' Church in Bexhill on Monday afternoon, may have been started by a cigarette left in the library.

Dozens of valuable and irreplaceable books were destroyed along with ancient stained glass windows.

But Father Colin Pritchard said the church's work would continue as normal.

"It's not the end it's just a very sad hiccup but we will cope.

"A large part of our ministry in this parish is in care and nursing homes, all that will carry on as normal as will our work with young children."

Books destroyed at St Barnabas' Church
Hundreds of charred books are all that remains of the church library

Father Pritchard held mass in the living room of his vicarage on Tuesday afternoon.

Although the exterior of the building remained intact, architect Peter Pritchett said the interior, particularly the roof, had suffered badly.

"The debris from the fire is very extensive... the damage has been done by smoke and water. Flames have also damaged some of the timbers."

Although the north-west corner of the church was the worst-hit area, services will continue to be held in another area of the building.

Historic church damaged by fire
21 Nov 05 |  Southern Counties

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