Charminster bridge blamed for St Mary the Virgin floods

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Media captionSusan Pearson said the church had been battered by the bad weather

A Grade I-listed church in Dorset is being wrecked by flood water which is backing up behind a listed bridge, its vicar has said.

The Reverend Janet Smith said water was rushing into St Mary the Virgin in Charminster, near Dorchester.

She said the council-owned Grade II-listed bridge over the River Cerne was regarded as a major cause of flooding.

Dorset County Council said it could not remove the bridge because of its English Heritage listing.

Ms Smith said the church would "take months to dry out".

"The parquet flooring has lifted and is ruined, so I don't know where we will go after that.

"Our real frustration is that this parish has been talking about problems with flooding and we are getting nowhere."

Image caption Engineer John Burridge said the bridge's "limited flow capacity" was an issue

She said the bridge "is a lot to do with the problem".

"We have had so many meetings about preventing this kind of flooding.

"It's not just the church - it's homes in East Hill and West Hill as well - and they will continue to flood until the right thing is done."

'Seeping up'

John Burridge, Dorset's chief engineer for bridge management and structures, said bridge's "limited flow capacity is a contributory factor to the flooding that happens in this part of Charminster".

"The county council is working with the Environment Agency and are supporting a proposed scheme led by them to raise banks and introduce other measures to help relieve this flooding issue."

Susan Pearson, whose husband is a church warden, said: "The water came up on Saturday, and then on Sunday, it was absolutely flowing through the churchyard.

"Eventually it rose through the floor of the church, and now it's flooding into the chancel and into the bell tower, so it's above the first step.

"Water is seeping up through the floor. It is now 10 inches deep throughout the church."

Image caption Ms Smith said the church's flooring "has lifted and is ruined"

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