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Anger as insurers won't cover storm damage at Dorset church

A church is having to raise £50,000 to fix its storm-damaged roof because insurers don’t believe it was 'an act of god.'

A large section of the slate-tiled roof of St Mary the Virgin church blew off during a violent storm last December.

It left a gaping hole above the chancel of the church which is in the rural Dorset village of Glanvilles Wootton, located south of Sherborne.

When church officials tried to claim on their insurance to pay for the expensive repairs they were told the policy did not cover the damage.

Although the damage happened during a storm, insurers put the blame down to 'wear and tear' of the roof.

Ecclesiastical Insurance argued the 150-year-old timber battens supporting the tiles were in a poor state and should have been maintained.

The Glanvilles Wootton Parochial Church Council pointed out that an architect is required to carry out a survey of the church every five years and the last inspection raised no issues.

That point, however, has been dismissed by the insurance company and now parishioners have been left with a £50k repair bill for the 15th century church.

The clergy has secured an £8k grant and one villager has pledged £1 for every £1 raised up to £10k.

Storm damages roof of St Mary the Virgin church in Dorset (Image: BNPS)

Reverend Tony Gilbert said: “The tiles cascaded off the roof leaving gaping holes which have been covered with Tarpaulin sheets.

“[Ecclesiastical Insurance] sent out an assessor and they came back to say they won't cover us because the damage was due to gradual wear and tear.

“We have a quinquennial survey carried out on the church every five years and an architect and has a good look around the church to assess what needs to be done. Nothing has ever shown up.

“But apparently that doesn't hold water with the insurance company.

“As I understand it when the tiles were put up 200 years ago, iron nails were used to fix them to the bettens. At some point in the early 20th century steel ones were used to replace them and they should have replaced them with iron ones.”

Church warden Lucy Parrott added: “We want to hire a roofer to get on with the job but can't until the funds are in place.

“It is a lovely church that is well worth saving.”

A spokesperson for Ecclesiastical Insurance said: “We understand that this is disappointing for the customer. An expert inspection confirmed the roof collapsed due to the gradual deterioration of the fixings securing the stone slates.

“Unfortunately, failures of this nature are specifically excluded by the policy.”


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