Fire at St. Michaels
Canon John M. Hancock came to the parish in February 1987. As Rural Dean of the Jarrow Deanery, he knew the parish well, as we had been under his oversight during the long interregnum.
Not many months into Canon Hancock’s time here, disaster struck our church building. For a reason that seemed ever to remain a mystery, on December 3rd fire broke out in the organ chamber. By 11 p.m. it was raging fiercely. The blaze was quickly extinguished by the fire brigade, but not before it had caused serious damage. The organ was destroyed and flames penetrated the roof above. Woodwork in the area was charred and the east and west windows were damaged. The whole interior was affected by smoke, water and steam.
Arrangements were quickly made to hold services in the parish hall and plans for a massive restoration were drawn up. Not only did the plans involve renovation, but also a major re-arrangement of the west end of the building. Although fully insured, there was not enough money to fund repairs as well as alterations. An appeal was launched and it was decided to sell the parish hall.
The chancel screen was moved to the west end of the building and a balcony to hold the organ was constructed above. To the west of the screen, on two floors, was built a series of two rooms for meetings, social functions etc. The largest was named St. Andrews hall after the Missions, others in honor of former parishioners – Adamson Room, Flagg Room, Readhead Hall, Wilkinson Room and Nicholas Story Room, this last name having being the organist for 32 years. Much work was also required to the exterior.
However, all was in order for the service of ‘reopening and dedication’ in October 27th, 1989. This was a happy occasion attended by Bishop David Jenkins, local dignitaries, past clergy and many parishioners.