Picture: The Church after the Fire

The Sheffield Daily Telegraph,
Mon 3rd Jan 1887
3rd of 3 columns

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  Shortly after four o'clock yesterday afternoon a ladder was obtained and an examination made of this hole, which is in the north west corner of the chamber, where the fire was observed. Mr Pound first went up the ladder, and after putting his hand into the cavity, called out " The timber runs into the flue. It has burnt right through." Mr Chambers immediately replied "That should not be so." Then Mr Giles went up the ladder, and after making a scrutiny, said he could not find that any wood passed right into the flue. Mr. Gibbs and Mr. Pound next examined the hole together, after which the latter expressed a confident opinion that the fire had originated there. About that he had not a shadow of doubt. Mr Gibbs, on coming down, said the fire had no doubt originated there, but it would require careful examination in the daylight to definitely decide the point. He was of the opinion that there was at least three inches of space between the flue and the end of the beam, in which case there must have been, in his opinion, an unusual furnace heat to cause the fire. From yesterday's examination it was generally admitted that a beam was let into the wall at this place. The points that require clearing up are how far did the beam penetrate, and what, if anything, was between it and the open flue?

  The church is insured in the Alliance Office for 9,000, but whether the organ was included could not be ascertained yesterday. The damage cannot be definitely ascertained. Probably 12,000 will not be far off the mark.

  We are requested by Mr. Tweedie to say that the new parish room opened last year will at once be fitted up to take the place of the church, and that steps will be immediately taken to rebuild the church.

  The destruction of Ranmoor Church is another proof of the necessity of effective telegraph communication between Ranmoor and Sheffield, as well as the connection of the police telephone with the Telephone Exchange both day and night. In a fire of this magnitude fifteen minutes may make an immense difference.

  Mr. J. E. Bingham, of West Lea, has only the breadth of the road between himself and the church. From his house it was observed that there appeared to be an unusual volume of smoke going in the direction of Mr. J. W. Harrison's residence, on the other side of the church. A little later the smoke became more alarming, particularly when the cisterns seemed to be "steaming," and the smoke was seen issuing from the two ventilators. Mr. Bingham's attention being directed to it, he perceived the church was on fire. His son, Mr. Albert Bingham, was promptly outside, and they were both in a few minutes at the vestry, which they proceeded to clear of its contents, which were conveyed to safety at West Lea.

  Then the church was too full of smoke to see clearly; but it was observed - this would be about fifteen minutes to ten - that in the north corner (where the organ chamber is fixed) a patch of the roof was all aglow and that patch came down soon after with a crash. At that time a crackling noise was heard from the organ, which was evidently on fire. The pitch or tar was dropping from the roof, and lumps of wood falling into the nave. Then the arches seemed to get all aglow at the same time; the roaring of the fire increased; and the light of the flaming mass outlined the architectural features of the interior along the entire length of the nave from west to east. The first three or four arches nearest the chancel seemed to collapse all at once, their fall being followed by a coruscation of sparks.

  The Brigade, promptly discerning that the nave was hopelessly doomed, turned to the belfry tower, from which they succeeded in beating back the flames. The heat of the fire was felt against West Lea windows. Mr. Bingham, at the outset, sent his gardener Hibberd to give alarm at the Ranmoor Inn, and urge the immediate despatch of a messenger to Broomhill Police Station.

  A large number of persons saw the fire at about its start. The statements are similar in all essential details. Mr. C. H. Smith, a member of the choir, who lives close to Ranmoor, was attracted by a noise like the moving of forms in a school; but the noise increased to a great extent, and going outside he observed what was a magnificent as it was sorrowful sight. All the beams were going, jets of fire were peeping out of the roof, the windows were wrapped in flame, and looking through the interior glowed like a furnace, while vast volumes of smoke drifted away eastward. Smoke was issuing heavily from the windows of the belfry; a continuous crackling sound was followed by a great crash when the roof disappeared within the walls.

  Mr. Robert Colver, who, as one of the wardens, had very early intimation of the fire, states that it was evident the body of the church was doomed before the Fire Brigade could possibly get up, with the present appliances of communication.

  Mr. William Lockwood, like other residents near the church, was early on the scene; but his son, William, was before him, and brought away from the vestry a silver paten. It is stated the two collecting plates were also obtained. On the Communion table there were a ???, two cups, and two tazzas, in oxydised silver - said to be the handsomest Sacramental service in Sheffield. They have all perished.

 Samuel Hand, one of the ringers, said he came down at a quarter to ten o'clock to assist in the ringing the bells as usual. As he got near he heard a strange "buzzing" noise, and looking round saw the church in flames. Looking through the windows, he says, was like gazing into a furnace; and when the roof fell the crash was followed by a grand shower of sparks. There was no time to do anything. It was all over in forty minutes.

  Last evening there was again a crowd to look at the destroyed building, the harsher features of which were toned by a coating of newly fallen snow, imparting, with the ivy uninjured amid the wreck, a picturesqueness to the ruins.

  The Church of St. John the Evangelist was commenced to be erected in June, 1877, at the cost of Mr. Newton Mappin, the site having been given by Mr. J. W. Harrison, who in addition, bore the expense of the boundary walls and the laying out of the grounds. The total cost, including the site, was about 15,000. It was in the early Gothic style of architecture, and was so designed that there were no pillars to obstruct the sight, the whole edifice being covered by one roof. It was constructed to accommodate 559 worshippers, and was 180 feet long, 33 feet wide, and 53 feet high. The east end was apsidal, and the lines of the principals of the roof was carried down the sides by triplet columns attached to the walls between the windows. The latter had been made unusually numerous and large in the hope that they might some day be filled in with stained glass. The chancel was 30 feet in length, and extended the whole width of the church, and the flooring was tiled throughout. The main entrance, which was beneath the tower, was so constructed as to enable carriages to drive up to the door. The spire was 190 feet high above the church floor, and 220 feet above the pathway in Ranmoor road, it being thus a very conspicuous object. No expense was spared in making the seats for the congregation as perfect as possible. The entrances were of unusual width, and fitted with double doors to prevent draught.

  The organ, which is now a complete wreck, was the work of Messrs. Brindley and Foster, and the gift of Mr. C. H. Firth. One of the features of the interior of the building was the elaborate pulpit, which was presented by Mr. J. Y. Cowlishaw, at a cost of 400, and was the work of Mr. Charles Green. It was designed by Mr. E. M. Gibbs, the architect of the building. A harmonious combination of wood and bronze was one of the specialities of the work, the effect being exceedingly appropriate to the surrounding appointments. The noble font, the gift of Mr. W. H. Brittain, of Acaster stone, with marble columns, has been destroyed by the devouring flames, together with the lectern, which was presented by Mr. J. B. Jackson.

  The pews, with their adornments, fell an early prey. They were covered with Brussells carpeting, and the footstools were designed to match. The seats themselves were cushioned in crimson, while the pulpit was upholstered in crimson velvet, with velvet pile on the carpet on the floor and pulpit steps. The aisles were covered with Napier matting, with a plain centre and pretty border.

  His Grace the Archbishop of York, at the consecration of the church in April, 1879, referred to the beauty of the church, which, he said had been built for the accommodation of a rich neighbourhood. Again, referring to the generosity of the giver, his Grace said that was no mere gift of money which could be well spared. The church itself was the gift of one man but several things that adorned it had been given by friends of the donor, who wished to assist in his noble undertaking.

  The valuable screen which had been destroyed was presented by Sir F. T. Mappin M. P., and was of oak elaborately and exquisitely carved and glazed in the ancient style. It was a source of great comfort to a large proportion of the congregation, particularly those in the free seats, on account of the prevention of the severe draughts caused when the doors were opened. The screen ran the entire width of the west end of the church, and had double doors leading into the centre aisle, single doors opening into each of the side aisles.

  The church contained two memorial stained-glass windows, erected by the congregation in memory of their late vicar, and was completed on April 4th. The window, which was one of six in the chancel, was situated next to the east window. On the south side of the church there were two lights, the subject of one being the entombment of our Lord. Underneath was a corresponding subject from the Old Testament, representing the casting of Jonah into the water. In the right hand light was shown the Resurrection, with Roman soldiers sleeping at the base, whilst the corresponding incident, taken from the Old Testament, was Samson carrying away the gates of Gaza. The upper part of the window was filled with tracery, and the whole work was done in a highly artistic manner, the figures being skilfully drawn and the colours most harmonious. The inscription was :- "Erected by the members of the congregation of St. John's, Ranmoor, to the memory of the Rev. E. B. Chalmer, D. D., the first Vicar of the parish, anno Domini. 1885." The second memorial window was only placed in the church as recently as April this year by Mr. and Mrs. J. B. Ellison in memory of their parents. The handsome stained glass window, which was placed in the church by Mr. and Mrs. J. B. Ellison, to the memory of their parents was demolished. In one of the two lights was represented Pilate handing the Saviour over to be crucified, whilst in the smaller panel below Joseph is being sold by his brethren. In the other light the Saviour was bearing the cross, and in the lower compartment the Old Testament type is supplied by Isaac carrying the wood for the sacrifice. 

  During the summer of 1886 the church was beautified at a cost of 1,200, and the regret of every inhabitant of Sheffield at yesterday's catastrophe must be intensified when this fact is taken into consideration. The interior of the building was beautified almost beyond recognition. The roof was retiled and made waterproof, and the introduction of a new system of ventilation provided a drastic remedy for draughts. The chancel was elaborately decorated, and the main portion of the walls was covered with diapers in different colours. Representations of the twelve Apostles, Moses and St. Paul were painted on the wall space between the windows at the east end of the sacred edifice. The figures were drawn in a strong brown outline on a dark blue background, relieved here and there with gold. The church being dedicated to St. John, the figure of that Apostle was placed on the wall space immediately to the right of the Communion Table, a representation of St. James being placed to the left. The principals and the rafters of the roof were brought out in gold and rich colours, the vermillion and black hue having a unique and beautiful appearance. It was thought advisable to do nothing to the roof in the way of figure work; the panelling therefore had been left plain so as to throw the principals and rafters into bold relief. The floral designs on the wall spaces, although conventional, were decidedly pleasing to the eye, which without being dazed by the richness of colour, was delighted with the variety of treatment.

  The nave of the church had not been so elaborately treated as the chancel. A bordering had been carried around the splays of the windows in order to bring out the architectural features of that portion of the building, and an ornamental frieze was placed at the top just below the wall plate. A border of chaste design had also been painted at the springing of the windows. The walls had been given three or four coats of oil colour in various tints, and the vestries and passages had been made bright and beautiful. The colouring of the nave gave light and warmth to the whole building. A text had been carried along the west end below the great west window. The words were: " I am the way, the truth and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by Me."

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