Portishead and Weston church fires

Western Daily Press and Bristol Mirror

FEB. 26, 1934

Local people suspect there is some connection

Is there any connection between the mysterious fire at the ancient Weston-in-Gordano Parish Church near Portishead and the recent outbreak which destroyed the church at Weston-Super-Mare?
This is a question which the people of Somerset are asking themselves because of the suspicion in the district that an incendiary was responsible for the fire at Weston-in-Gordano which did damage to the belfry and the vestry.
The rector Rev. P. I. Lach-Szyrma, believes that the fire may have been started in his church deliberately and he is not the only inhabitant of the district who holds that view.
“The police believe the fire was due to an electric light fuse but the fact remains only a few weeks ago the church at Weston-Super-Mare was burned down,” he told a “Press and Mirror” reporter yesterday.
In the evening before his sermon the rector briefly referred to happenings of the past few days and he paid tribute to the work of all who had in anyway helped to fight the fire.
The fire destroyed a 300-year-old screen which separated the belfry from the nave and it was replaced yesterday by match boarding which also screened from view the other damage to the beams of the belfry. This and a pungent odour of burnt wood were the only evidence of the drama that had been enacted in the village during the past few days.
The bell ropes which were also damaged by the fire had been replaced for yesterday's services and the bells pealed as usual to greet the glorious sunshine of a beautiful morning as though nothing had happened. Even the congregation was no bigger than usual.
Across the road the curtains of the rectory were drawn reminding the visitor that through hurrying to the church from Portishead to give what assistance she could, Mrs R. Quartly-Carter, the rector’s 80-year-old mother-in-law had collapsed and died.
Besides the dramatic chain of events there still exists the unsolved mystery of the man who was seen to behave in such a peculiar manner in the church before the outbreak was discovered.
The man had been described to police as about 50, wearing a light-coloured trilby hat and a light grey overcoat.
Friday's fire was quickly extinguished by the prompt work of the Portishead fire brigade and the villagers, but further alarm was caused early on Saturday morning by discovery fire had broken out again. It was again discovered by Mrs Symes the caretaker.
As on the previous occasion, the Portishead fire brigade soon had the outbreak under control.
It is thought that the beams smouldering through the night with the cause of the second blaze.