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Insurers DON'T think brutal weather is an 'act of God'

  • Large section of slate-tiled roof blew off during a violent storm last December

  • It left a gaping hole above the chancel of St Mary the Virgin church in Dorset


A church is having to raise almost £50,000 to fix its storm-damaged roof – because insurers do not believe it was 'an act of God'.


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

It left a gaping hole above the chancel of St Mary the Virgin church in Glanvilles Wootton, Dorset.


But 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 it happened during a storm – a natural event or 'act of God' usually covered by premiums – the insurers put the blame down to 'wear and tear'.



A large section of the slate-tiled roof blew off during a violent storm last December. It left a gaping hole above the chancel of St Mary the Virgin church in Glanvilles Wootton, Dorset



But 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



Reverend Tony Gilbert (pictured with Church warden Lucy Parrott), rector to the Three Valleys Benefice which includes St Mary the Virgin, said: 'Before last Christmas we had quite a storm and most of the tiles on the chancel roof above the altar were blown off'


Ecclesiastical Insurance argued that 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.


But that point has been dismissed by the insurance company and parishioners have been left with the £47,000 repair bill.

The hole in the roof was being covered by tarpaulin sheets until they blew off. The concern is that any temporary fix will not make it through winter.

Now there is a race against time to raise the money to save the church, which dates back to the 15th century.

The clergy has secured an £8,000 grant and one generous villager has pledged £1 for every £1 raised up to £10,000.


Reverend Tony Gilbert, rector to the Three Valleys Benefice which includes St Mary the Virgin, said: 'Before last Christmas we had quite a storm and most of the tiles on the chancel roof above the altar were blown off.


Ecclesiastical Insurance argued that 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. But that point has been dismissed by the insurance company and parishioners have been left with the £47,000 repair bill


'The tiles cascaded off the roof leaving gaping holes which have been covered with tarpaulin sheets.

'We are insured through Ecclesiastical Insurance. They 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 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 baattens. 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: 'Unless you take the roof off you aren't going to see what is under those tiles. It isn't as though we have been told in the past to mend it and have ignored that advice.

'I think everybody connected with the church was a bit annoyed by the [insurer's] response. We did expect some help from them.

'I know they are looking for their premiums again and our treasurer has said, 'Why should we pay it when you aren't going to cover us?'

'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.'


One of the parishioners is Peter Wilson MBE, the Olympic gold medal shooting champion, who is helping with the fundraising campaign.

He said: 'It really grinds my gears that you insure a building on the basis that it is there to support you when things go wrong and yet it is not insured because it is down to gradual wear and tear.'


A spokesman 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.'

According to the website comparethemarket.com, the term 'act of God' is a bit of a myth when it comes to insurance.


It says it refers to an event that is considered no one's fault and could not have been avoided. This includes a storm.

It adds that 'people often search for it in the small print of their insurance policy... but it's not a term insurance providers normally use these days'.


Source: dailymail.co.uk

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