St Wandregesilius, Bixley
Tragically, the majority of St Wandregesilius was destroyed by fire in May 2004, in a suspected arson attack started with a gas canister used fuel to the church’s heating. Visiting nearly sixteen years later year, I found what remains of the church is slowly being taken over by nature and the structure seems more precarious than ever. What makes it even more of a tragic loss is the fact that it is the only church in the country to be dedicated to St Wandregesilius.
St Wandregesilius was born around 605 and for several years lived as a hermit at Saint-Ursanne in Switzerland. He then went onto to spend time at a monastery in northern Italy before finally ending up in Normandy where he was ordained and founded Fontenelle Abbey. The church was dedicated to this particular saint, as there had once been a shrine to Wandregesilius at Bixley in the middle ages.
Before my visit, I had seen many photos of the site not long after the fire had occurred and found that not much of what had been previously documented remained. Most of the roof beams have now fallen in and lie propped up against the south wall, and the charred pews have now fully perished or been devoured by the undergrowth. The font, however, is still just about visible but now resembles a stout mushroom struggling to fight its way through the brambles.
Despite the destruction, St Wandregesilius still has a unique and beguiling beauty about it that always seems to exude from lost and forgotten places. How much longer it will stay standing in its current state is debatable, but for now at least, it remains a gem amongst the ashes.
Please note: It goes without saying that the site is extremely dangerous and full of hidden perils and that great care should be taken when visiting.