he defiant vicar of a historic church London completely destroyed in a “heartbreaking fire” on Friday said: “We are still here for the community.”
Plumes of smoke were spotted for miles around as St Mark’s in St John’s Wood was “completely destroyed” in the inferno.
Videos on social media showed the spire being gutted and flames bursting out of the windows as the fire took hold at 11.19pm on Thursday.
Vicar Kate Harrison, who took over St Mark’s congregation in 2015, told the Standard she was evacuated from her home in the vicarage and watched on helplessly as the flames took hold.
“The firefighters were absolutely amazing and they worked so hard. I’m really touched for the amount of effort they put in for this building, they were so kind and wonderful.”
Through tears, she 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.
“We are still here for the area.”
One witness described watching the flames grow “before the roof caved in”.
The cause of the fire, which is now under control, is not yet known.
No injuries have been reported, London Fire Brigade (LFB) said.
“I got up and looked out my bedroom window and the road outside was full of fire engines,” a local told BBC News.
“I thought at the time there must have been some accident further down the road. I just got my coat on, came outside the front door and just noticed the church next door was just ablaze. It’s terrible, the whole church was on fire – smoke everywhere. It’s extremely sad because it’s a very old church and it’s ruined now.”
Another local tweeted: “Heartbreaking to see the St Mark’s Church burning down.”
Scotland Yard said the cause of the fire “is under investigation”.
A Met spokesman said: “Some nearby addresses were evacuated as a precaution. They were later allowed to return home.
“No reports of any injuries.”
The LFB said it used three ladders, including the tallest in Europe at 64 metres, as towers to distribute water evenly and extinguish the blaze.
The National Churches Trust had listed St Mark’s as a grade II Victorian church, describing it as an “architectural and historical treasure” which finished construction between 1846 and 1847.
It contained “stunning” mosaics by the Salviati family as well as highly decorative marble flooring in the chancel, with the overall Gothic-styled design the work of architect Thomas Cundy Junior.
It was located near Abbey Road Studios and Lord’s Cricket Ground, and had links to author Lewis Carroll and Queen Victoria’s son Prince Leopold.