St. Mary and St Giles Church was set alight by vandals on Boxing Day 1964. It is said children inside the church had been playing with matches and set fire to curtains. They ran off without alerting anyone and it was several hours before the fire was discovered. By the time firemen got to the scene later that evening the fire had vastly spread, causing a great deal of damage to the inside of the building. The church was closed for over three years.
These exclusive photos show firemen in action fighting the blaze. They were taken by Bill Barby who lived in the White Horse pub.
Left - how the Wolverton Express reported the fire in its January 2nd edition of 1965. The photo showed the vicar's warden Mr. R.L. Odell and Rev. C.L.G. Hutchings viewing the damage.
After the firre it was first thought that St Mary the Virgin would be extended to cope with the congregation of St. Giles. However the Oxford Diocese decided to retain St Giles and close St Mary's. The two churches combined and on Palm Sunday 7 April 1968 St Giles was re-dedicated as the church of St Mary and St Giles.
Below - inside St Giles church before the fire of '64. When it was rebuilt the pews, the choir stalls and the altar screen were not replaced. A return to Georgian style combined with 60's design produced the interior we see today. (pictured right)
But the fire of '64 wasn't the only blaze to strike the church in recent times. On the 16 April 1971 the Wolverton and North Bucks Express newspaper reported how the prompt action of a bobbie on the beat prevented another disaster at the church. It told how just before 1am PC Elwyn Davies spotted smoke coming from the boiler house and quickly alerted church officials. It meant firemen were soon on the spot to prevent the flames reaching tanks of fuel that were stored for the oil fired central heating system.