St Peter’s Dixton church bore the full force of flooding in the wake of Storm Dennis just 24 hours after decorating work had been completed on the chancel following a major refurbishment.

It was the ancient church’s worst flood for 63 years, with the water level reaching over six feet high inside, and those first on the scene were devastated by what they found.With the approach road under water and nearby footpaths blocked by fallen trees, church treasurer Liz Wills and her husband Richard couldn’t reach St Peter’s for days and were ‘heartbroken’ at the devastation that awaited them.But members of the local community have been quick to roll up their sleeves and help with the mop up operations.“We’d expected the worst on Saturday and had done our best to move the embroidered pew runners, Bibles, prayers books and altar furnishings on to the window sills,” said Liz.“When we finally reached the church on Thursday we couldn’t open the door because there were pews wedged against it but the water mark in the porch was above our heads and we feared the worst.“Through the window we could see that there was chaos inside.“It was devastating, particularly as the contractors had only finished decorating the chancel on Friday. “We’ve used up all the Dixton Church Maintenance Trust funds of £130,000 on replacing the chancel roof and, since we’ve always relied on the interest to pay for routine maintenance, we’re back to square one.”The Rev Penny Powdrill added: “It’s such a mess inside. Most of the hymn and prayer books were so damaged we couldn’t save them.“The chancel arch has plates recording previous flood levels and this was one inch below the highest in 1947.“Over the years we’ve removed things at risk of damage, like carpets, in favour of things that can be picked up quickly and placed out of harm’s way - but this time everything was wet and muddy. Even the visitors’ book was under water.“The Bankes Bible, compiled in 1770, was in a case in the vestry but we don’t know yet if it’s been damaged.“The church’s regular congregation is small and its members getting older but there’s a real love for Dixton church in the local community and its many visitors describe it as a place of spiritual renewal and peace.“Judy and Doug Morris and their family from The Royal Oak came down at the weekend and managed to force open the porch door.“Local farmer Richard Waller, whose mother made the beautifully embroidered pew runners, asked if he could collect them and take them away to repair. He must have taken a truck down with three or four men because there has been a major tidy up inside, with the pews neatly stacked. It’s heartwarming that local people are so prepared to help out.”The church was already facing the daunting prospect of finding a small fortune to replace the main roof.“What we urgently need now is a band of volunteers with the know-how, time and energy to fill in grant applications on our behalf,” she said. If anyone can help please email: [email protected]