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Holiday thefts hit churches

by
11 January 2012

by a staff reporter

Ilford sacrilege: the Revd Gareth Jones, Priest-in-Charge of St Mary’s, Ilford, in Essex, shows the war memorial smashed by intruders in the church between 26 and 28 December. They also vandalised a painting of Christ, and stole 18th-century silver candlesticks and plate ARCHANT

Ilford sacrilege: the Revd Gareth Jones, Priest-in-Charge of St Mary’s, Ilford, in Essex, shows the war memorial smashed by intruders in the church be...

A MEDIEVAL stone burial slab for a child and a jewelled brass cross, two feet high, were two of the objects stolen from churches over the Christ­mas period.

The stone slab, from St Mary’s, Foy, Ross on Wye, depicts in bas-relief a woman in a cloak. It is marked with Smartwater, the DNA forensic tracing system, and the police hope that this will make the slab impossible to sell, and that it will therefore be returned to the church.

In the village of Bishopsbourne, near Canterbury, thieves took a brass cross and other valuables, including brass candlesticks, plates, and vases, from the unlocked church. The police have since made arrests in connection with the thefts, but the Priest-in-Charge of St Mary’s, the Revd Stephen Hardy, still does not know whether the valu­ables have been recovered.

He said: “We are not sure if they were taken to be sold as specific items, or to be melted down for the brass.” He said that the church would continue to stay open, despite the thefts.

St Mary’s, Bishopsbourne, at­tracts many visitors because the 16th-century divine Richard Hooker was a Rector there, and because the village was the home of the novelist Joseph Conrad.

Mr Hardy said: “It is our inten­tion to keep the church open, as we feel it is an important sacred space, both for the local community, and also for people coming from further afield. Bishopsbourne boasts the re­mains of medieval wall-paintings, it is associated with Rector Richard Hooker, who died here in 1600, and there has been a significant Vic­torian makeover by the likes of William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones.”

He said, however, that there would be some increases in security precautions.

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