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Arson Hunt Follows Cathedral Fire

Yesterday's blaze at Coventry Cathedral is being treated as arson, and police have launched an investigation into the fire.

Loss adjustors and conservation experts were meeting today to try and work out the extent of the damage caused by yesterday’s fire.

Graham Sutherland's tapestry Picture courtesy of Coventry and Warwickshire Promotions

The blaze, discovered shortly after 8am in a storeroom in the basement, was serious, but did not spread to the main part of the building.

Fire officers have traced the root of the blaze to a fire in a wooden locker. West Midlands Police today confirmed they were investigating fire as it could be down to arson.

Fire service spokesman Ian McWilliam said there were two possible causes of the blaze, and investigations had been passed over to the police for them to carry out interviews and try and find out what the cause was.

He said:

"The fire investigation is completed. We certainly have a source of where the fire started.

"The police are now pursuing their investigations as to the possible causes."

More than 70 firefighters were called in to contain the fire, and to stop smoke spreading to the valuable works of art on display.

But some white smoke did filter through and settle.

The world-famous Graham Sutherland tapestry of Christ in Glory is particularly affected.

Experts will be looking at it today to see how bad the soot damage is and how it can be cleaned.

Diocesan spokesman Lawrence Mortimer said a working group set up to try and get the cathedral back to normal would be meeting today to consider the next step.

He said:

“I don’t know until yesterday that there were different types of soot. It’s difficult to know what the best thing to do is, but that will be discussed today.”

Acting Dean of Coventry Cathedral, Canon Stuart Beake, who was on site throughout the incident said:

"I am full of praise for the way the fire service has responded so immediately and sensitively to what could have been a major disaster, and I have nothing but praise for the way our own Cathedral staff is coping".

The Bishop of Coventry, the Right Reverend Colin Bennetts, currently out of the country, phoned to say:

"I am very distressed to hear about the fire. I thank God that it was not worse than it was and that nobody was hurt".

Neighbouring church, Holy Trinity Coventry, has offered the Cathedral congregation a temporary home for as long as it takes for the smoke to clear. Today’s service for Ash Wednesday will take place there.


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CWN / Religion / Coventry Cathedral / 28 Feb 01

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This page modified on 10 November 2008 09:49:15AM