Police investigate suspected arson attack inside Lewes church

St Michael's Church ... the fire was started in the tower
St Michael's Church ... the fire was started in the tower

Police are investigating a suspected arson attack inside an historic Lewes church.

Books were piled inside the church tower at St Michael’s and set alight.

The alarm was raised by the owner of a neighbouring shop who saw smoke billowing from the High Street church.

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service was swiftly on the scene and dealt with the blaze, which happened shortly after lunchtime on Monday, August 6.

Parish Priest Father David Broad rushed to the scene when he was called about the fire.

He said: “It was very shocking. Because it was started in the tower, which is made of wood, things could potentially have been dreadful.

“There are so many combustible things in the church. Luckily the fire was caught in time, though it took a few days for the smoke to dissipate.

“I believe whoever was responsible for this was someone emotionally distanced with no-one to talk to and could only express themselves in this way, which is sad.”

St Michael’s, the only remaining church within the walls of the ancient county town, is open for prayer and quiet reflection from 10am-5pm Mondays to Saturdays.

Fr Broad said there were no plans to change security measures at the 800-year-old building and the church “would not respond out of fear”.

He said: “Openness is more important than any fears we may have, which are usually irrational.”

A Sussex Police spokesman said: “At approximately 2pm on Monday, August 6, police and fire personnel attended St Michael’s Church in High Street, Lewes, after reports of a fire having broken out.

“Paper and books placed on a chair in a room beneath the bell tower appeared to have been deliberately set alight.

“The fire was quickly put out and no structural damage resulted. Nor were there any injuries.

“Anyone with information about the incident, which is being treated as suspicious, should contact police online (https://sussex.police.uk/appealresponse) or phone 101, quoting serial 783 of 08/06.”