French answer church fire ‘m’aidez’

Church Warden Jennifer Royle who has welcomed the generous offer from Axminster's French twin town to help pay for repairs to the fire damaged Minster. Photo by Chris Carson Church Warden Jennifer Royle who has welcomed the generous offer from Axminster's French twin town to help pay for repairs to the fire damaged Minster. Photo by Chris Carson

Wednesday, April 30, 2014
8:45 AM

Axminster’s Normandy twin town sets up a fund to help pay for repairs after £100,000 Minster arson attack

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Douvres town hall in the shadow of the water tower. Photo by Chris CarsonDouvres town hall in the shadow of the water tower. Photo by Chris Carson

Axminster’s French twinning partners have started a fund to help pay for repairs to the Axe Valley town’s fire damaged Minster Church.

The generous gesture of help came from the newly re-elected mayor of Douvres la Délivrande - Thierry Lefort.

He made it to the chairman of Axminster’s twinning association Caroline Hillyard when she visited the Normandy town recently to see him win a second term of office.

Mrs Hillyard said: “Thierry knew that another of my missions during my stay had been to find the copy of the twinning oath which had been destroyed in the recent fire in the Minster Church, in Axminster. Luckily it was close to hand in the Mairie - the town hall - in Douvres and the staff there were very helpful in taking copies for me to bring back so that we can produce another one.

“The fire in the church came up in our conversation and completely putting aside other, more pressing, local issues that he might need to attend to Thierry said: “If you can give me all the details of who is dealing with the aftermath of the church fire and how much money the parish needs to find, I will start a collection here.”

Mrs Hillyard added: “I did say that I thought this gesture was really beyond the call of duty but Thierry was insistent and just said quite simply ‘of course it’s not, we’re twin towns, we are here to help each other’.

“It was my turn to feel overwhelmed.”

Repairs to Axminster Parish Church, which was left severely smoke damaged following the arson attack, are expected to cost more than £100,000.

Although the church was insured the bill for much of the clean up operation will have to be paid by the local Parochial Church Council.

Church Warden Jennifer Royle said the offer of help from the town’s French partners was extremely welcome.

“We are, of course very touched by this gesture from our friends in Douvres and wish to express our appreciation and thanks ,” she told The Herald.

* See Mrs Hillyard’s account of her recent trip to Douvres in next week’s Herald.

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