St. Columba Church 2007 Fire, High Street, Dover, Kent, United Kingdom

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John Latter on September 26, 2007

Dover's 'Twin towers': The Town Hall on the left and St. Columba's Church in the center.

Firemen are climbing the ladder between the twin towers prior to engaging the flames just visible near the top of the trees on the right-hand side of the church tower.

The inverted triangular covering of the Zeebrugge Bell is visible near the base of the Town Hall tower.

Background Info

From the BBC's news report, "Former church goes up in flames" (Saturday, 22 September 2007):

Thirty firefighters were sent to tackle a blaze in a former church in Dover, newly converted into a block of flats.

The fire started at St Martin's Court on the corner of Priory Hill and High Street just before midday.

Parish councillor Josie Reeves, from nearby River, said the flats were near completion, with workmen still on site.

Kent Fire and Rescue Service said everyone had escaped safely from the building but nearby premises were evacuated as a precaution.

There were no reports of injuries.

From the Kent Messenger's Kent Online website:

A large area surrounding the building in Dover High Street was cordoned off and crews from as far afield as Strood went to the scene.

An Incident Support and a Conmmand Support Unit joined fire crews from neighboring Folkestone, Deal and St Margaret's to help extinguish the flames, believed to have started in the roof of the building.

The operation caused major disruption to the roads after firefighters received the call just before noon.

A crucial part of the one way system was shut off on the High Street and Ladywell so crews could access the flames.

The building was sold in 2003 to developers and had undergone renovation work to turn it into flats.

Historical info on St. Columba (renamed as such in 2001):

...In 1838, the Congregationalists built a large chapel in Russell Street, at a cost of £1,700.

Then they built what Mr. Bavington-Jones described [in his "Annals of Dover"] as "a large and handsome" church at the bottom of High Street, a few paces above the Maison Dieu (Dover Town Hall). "Its tower, rising to a height of 80 feet, is a striking feature, and the whole is an ornament to the town," he said. The cost of the building was between £9,000 and £10,000, and the general style is Gothic of the Lancastrian Period. When this new church was opened on 7 September 1904, Zion Chapel, the original home of the Dover Congregationalists, was disposed of to a Baptist congregation, and their other chapel in Russell Street was retained for Sunday School and Mission purposes.

The Congregational Church in High Street became a United Reformed Church in 1972 when the Congregational Church in England and Wales merged with the Presbyterian Church of England. In 1981 the United Reformed Church entered into union with the Reformed Churches of Christ and in the year 2000 with the Congregational Union of Scotland.

The church was divided in half - horizontally - with the church being situated upstairs, and the church hall below.

As well as being a place of worship, the High Street church was also a focus for the community, with several groups meeting there. For many years it was used as a drop-in centre for asylum seekers and refugees who live in the town...

Also see "Congregational Church"

At the time of writing (23rd September, 2007) photos of other churches in Dover include the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Cannon (ex Canon) Street, the Knights Templar church on the Western Heights, St. Edmund's chapel in Priory Street, and a distant view of the church of St Peter & St Paul.

Info on Saint Columba.

St Columba's was once known as St Martin's Church.

Other photos of the fire

St Columba's roof in flames

Dennis Fire Tenders at the scene

Firemen obscured by smoke

A two-pronged assault on the fire

The fire at Westmount College the following day

Smoke rising from the roof of Westmount College

John Latter on April 9, 2009

Eighteen months after the fire, St Columba's church (now St Martin's Court) on the corner of Priory Hill and the High Street is once again the scene of drama as Dover Police pinned a man to the ground before putting him in handcuffs and then taking him away.

Three photos tell part of the story:

Dover Police Arrest 1

Dover Police Arrest 2

Dover Police Arrest 3

Part of the Images of Dover website.

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on September 26, 2007
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter

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