A Derbyshire church destroyed by fire could rise from the ashes thanks to a determined community effort supported by TV personality and auctioneer Charles Hanson.
Charles, a regular on TV’s Bargain Hunt and Antiques Road Trip, was devastated when Mackworth’s All Saints’ Church, near Derby, a grade I listed building, went up in flames on December 3 leaving it in ruins. The following day a teenage boy from Derby was arrested on suspicion of arson in relation to the incident.
Now Charles has joined forces with other members of the parish and the community to ensure Mackworth church stands tall again. He has vowed to help raise funds to rebuild it – and has organised a special event to highlight its plight this weekend.
On Saturday, December 19, from 4-5.30pm, Charles plans to illuminate the church for a live online broadcast featuring music and carols. Hansons Auctioneers’ social media and live broadcasting platforms will livestream the Shine A Light candlelit concert.
Charles hopes, with the backing of the church, that a major art installation fundraiser could be arranged for 2021. He has also arranged a Just Giving page and bank account for donations. Meanwhile, people across the country have been reaching out to help after Charles shared his despair on social media.
In an emotive post as the blaze took hold, Charles tweeted alongside a picture of the burning building: “My church in Mackworth, Derbyshire, tonight. I married here, loved ones are buried here, and a church so rich in history over 700 years brought joy to many. It witnessed so much, survived so much until this. I hope not a cruel act of arson. Pray for Mackworth church tonight. Gutted.”
Charles said: “I feel very, very sad. I have to do something. This church dates back to the 1340s. It’s mentioned in the Domesday book of 1086. It’s been a place of salvation for centuries and welcomed all faiths, all religions. It’s survived world wars and was standing when the Black Death took hold in 1346. It must be rebuilt and I’ll work night and day to make that happen. Let it be a beacon of light for mankind again – and a beacon of hope for us all just before Christmas.
“A church is a sacred place. Members of my family are buried at All Saints and that will be the case for many other Derbyshire families. It means so much to so many. I want people to get behind the campaign to help this church rise from the ashes. The walls are still standing, some parts have survived including a statue of the Madonna and child, and the spire is intact. We can’t leave it mortally wounded.
“It’s been at the heart of our community for hundreds of years. Its peaceful presence has offered solace, comfort and joy to thousands when they needed it most. Its celebrated marriages, including my own in July 2010, and christenings. My six-year-old daughter Matilda and son Fred, four, were christened there.
Charles and Rebecca Hanson's wedding in 2010 with, from left, TV antique show regulars Jonathan Pratt Kate Bliss, Tim Wonnacott and Philip Serrell.
“It’s also offered a solemn and calm place to grieve at times of loss. My grandad, Allsop Smith, a Mackworth pig farmer, was laid to rest at All Saints at the age of 99 in 2018, and my uncle Tom Bond played the organ there for 70 years. It deserves a second chance and I’m determined to play my part in giving it one.
“We had hoped to invite members of the public to this weekend’s carol service but, due to Covid-19, cannot do so. A small number of invited guests will attend to celebrate the church’s life and keep its plight in the public eye. Let’s light up Mackworth with our determination to bring this church back to life and replenish its fire-ravaged interior.
“Having survived 700 years and given us peace and sanctuary, the church deserves our commitment. We all know 2020 has been a testing time for us all but, rather than ending the year on a sad note, let’s do something wonderful.
“This church needs you to stand tall to allow it to stand tall again. Let’s celebrate what it will be again, a place of worship and a community venue for people to mark major life events and meet with friends and family
All Saints' rich interior before the blaze: Charles Hanson’s great grandad Harold Smith walks daughter Vera down the church path for her marriage to Tom Bond (church organist ), circa 1942.
“Next year I hope, with church and parish approval, to deliver a public art display in Mackworth and Markeaton featuring sculptures of children through eight centuries to demonstrate the church’s place in history.
“There’s so much we can do. I was contacted by a lady on Twitter who said her church, St Brandon’s in Brancepeth, near Durham City, met a similar fate in 1998 but was rebuilt. If Durham can do it so can Derby.
“A target for the amount needed for All Saints’ Rebuilding Our Mission Project has not yet been set. More information will be provided in due course. The four walls, with restoration, will stay standing. We hope to some degree the lost rich interior of Derbyshire Blue John and Chellaston alabaster will be reinstated.
“A decorative altar rail, wonderful lectern and pulpit have been lost. I sincerely hope in time we can enrich the interior again and the church can invite local craftsman and artisans – anyone who feels they can help - to assist in restoring All Saints. We want it to play its part in history for the next 700 years.”
Live event and donation information
The Shine A Light musical carol service can be watched on Saturday, December 19, from 4-5.30pm, via the YouTube link below, hansonslive.co.uk or on Facebook @HansonsAuctioneersUK
Donations to Mackworth’s All Saints Church Restoration Fund can be made by sending payments through bank transfer to account number 70691668, sort code 30-92-59. Cheques made out to PCC Mackworth All Saints Church can be sent to: All Saints’ Church Appeal, care of Charles Hanson, Hansons, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire DE65 6LS.
Donations can also be sent to a crowdfunding page set up by Charles - Just Giving/All Saints Mackworth Mission Rebuild.
If you wish to help the campaign in any way, email [email protected].