Shattered City church set to rise from ashes

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The Independent Online
The resurrection of St Ethelburga's, the medieval City of London church shattered by the IRA's Bishopsgate bomb, moved a step closer yesterday ,with the appointment of architects for a pounds 3m rebuilding scheme, 14 months after a concrete-and-glass design was rejected.

St Ethelburga's, the City's oldest and smallest church, appeared little more than rubble and twisted window tracery after a lorry bomb exploded on 24 April 1993, killing one person. However, while early reports suggested demolition of the 14th-century church, substantial medieval stonework survived.

Architects Purcell Miller Tritton, known for their work at Canterbury and Ely cathedrals, the National Gallery and the Reform Club, have won a contract to convert the site into a centre for reconciliation and peace. The London firm was chosen from 14 companies because it was considered the "most sympathetic" to the aims of the project.

What to do with the St Ethelburga's site has been the subject of years of anguish for the Diocese of London. In June 1996, the City planning committee threw out a controversial design by architects Blee Ettwein Bridges intended to symbolise "death and resurrection" in the face of terrorism. The Friends of St Ethelburga's, who argued for restoration of the original, were greatly relieved.

After inheriting the dilemma, the new bishop, the Rt Rev Richard Chartres, launched in March this year a proposal for a centre offering support for victims of terrorism and torture.

The former Beirut hostages Terry Waite and John McCarthy are acting as advisers and the trustees include Cardinal Basil Hume, Archbishop of Westminster.

Intended for completion by 2000, the much-loved facade of the building, with its wooden bell tower, should look much as it did before the bombing. The interior of the church is also likely to be restored, while at the rear will be the centre's office and a memorial garden to City bomb victims. A City institution is believed to be considering a pounds 1m-plus donation which should enable the Trust to attract the money for the rebuilding - probably from the lottery.

Named after an abbess noted for her heroic conduct during the pestilence of 664, St Ethelburga's is one of the last fragments of the medieval City. Constructed in 1390, it survived the Great Fire of 1666 and the Blitz, and now looks set to survive the IRA.