THE HISTORY OF EAST GRINSTEAD - Online Book

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THE PARISH CHURCH.
65
century, the tower then falling on to the body of the church and almost completely demolishing it. The following account of the event appeared in " The Gentleman's Magazine" for 1785 :—
This stately building, the tower of the Parish Church of East Grinstead, was re-built in 1684 (the old one having been burnt down by lightning in 1683), but had for some years past been in a state of decay, owing to the want of judgment in the architect, bad workman­ship and worse materials. But within this twelvemonth it hastened very rapidly to its dissolution, by showing a large crack at the foundation of the north - east ('? north - west) angle, which passed through the stone staircase contained in that angle, and which led to the top of the tower by winding steps. A large part of the outside of the foundation of that angle had at several times fallen down, which discovered the badness of the materials, being nothing but a case of stone filled up with rubbish, and that stone being very indifferent. The bells, which were six and very heavy and hung in the third loft, had not been rung for some time past, as it was observed that they shook the tower very much.
On Saturday, the 12th November, 1785, a very considerable quantity of stone fell from the north-west angle, some distance up the tower; this brought near a hundred persons into the churchyard. The stones kept continually falling, and many of them, from the violent pressure, flew from the foundation to a considerable distance, as if thrown from an engine; when another large parcel of stone fell from the same angle, and raised a great dust, which served as a warning to the spectators to keep at a greater distance. The grand crack was then observed to run very fast up the tower, and about a quarter of a hour before two o'clock it gave some dreadful cracks, and stones were heard to fall withinside; when the tower immediately divided north and south at the top, and the north-west minaret tottered for some seconds, which, together with the south-west and south-east minarets, fell down almost perpendicularly. The north-east minaret immediately followed, but unfortunately fell on the roof of the church, and, driving one pair of rafters against another, beat down three pillars out of the four and, with some large stones which fell from the south-east angle, unroofed all the north, and middle aisles, beyond the pulpit, and beat down one of the pillars in the south aisle in such a manner that the roof there also must be taken off; so that it may fairly be said two-thirds of the roof are destroyed by the fall of the north-east minaret and the stone from the north-east angle. The west part of the tower sinking almost perpendicularly, the stones did not reach so far into the churchyard on the west and south sides as might have been expected; so that none of the houses (though very near) were damaged and providentially no lives lost, though some persons had been both in the church and belfry, but a few minutes before, and the master and scholars had just left the School Room, which was adjoining to the steeple (sic) and was also destroyed.
The tower, being very large and of a great height, fell with the most dreadful noise, and shook the earth to a very considerable
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