St Mark's Hamilton Terrace - the destruction of a listed church
St Mark’s Hamilton terrace was destroyed by fire on the night of Thursday 26 January 2023. Eighty firefighters were deployed to St Mark’s church at 23:20 GMT on Thursday and three hours later only a burnt out shell remained. Videos on social media showed the entire two-storey building alight, and then the roof of the ornate Victorian building caved in. It appears the floor and walls decorated with ornate gold mosaics of Bible passages were destroyed in the blaze and the First War memorial chapel painted by Sigismund Goetze which had come from the demolished St Stephen’s in Avenue Road and the Herald of Free Enterprise memorial were burned.
The vicar of the Grade II*-listed church said she had been told forensics may never find out what triggered the blaze. Reverend Kate Harrison said “I’m absolutely heartbroken. That building has served the Christian community for 175 years. It’s our base where we have been reaching out, helping people, loving people. It’s a wonderful beacon of hope and to see it suffer in crushing devastation is completely heartbreaking. But it is a building, not the church. The church is the people and our work will carry on, our love will carry on.”
The following Sunday a defiant service outside the burnt-out shell of the church was held. Dozens gathered for a Candlemas Eucharist service on Sunday in the shadow of the church using a cross made from pieces of burnt timber pulled from the building
A local mother told the Standard of the panic she felt as she grabbed her children and fled her home as the fire threatened to spread to her home. She said: “The clouds of white smoke were really dense and thick and could be seen rising up to the sky and then being blown onto the firefighters by the wind and then blown down toward Maida Vale. I’d never seen anything like it. I began to see bright orange flames flicker, which increased until I could see an almighty and vicious fire ravaging through the roof of the church. In a state of rising panic, I told my husband we needed to grab our two children, who were asleep, and get out. As we left we stood briefly at the front door, watching with sadness, as the front of the Church glowed bright orange from the raging fire. We could hear the loud crackling of the burning as though it were an almighty bonfire.” She added: “I went to look at the church today and it is a shell. The spire is black and slightly crooked. The locals are devastated. Churchgoers have lost their place of worship and for a decade mothers, fathers, babies and toddlers have enjoyed daytime classical concerts of live musicians.”