MEDIEVAL monuments have been stolen
from four churches in the south Midlands this year. This has led to
the suggestion that an organised gang may be stealing items to
One of six reredos panels was stolen
during a break-in at St Peter's, Drayford, near Abingdon,
Oxfordshire, in March. In April, the head-section of a 14th-century
effigy was stolen from All Saints', Newland, Gloucestershire. The
effigy is said to be that of a priest, Robert de Wakering, who
founded the church in the 13th century.
Weeks later, thieves chiselled out
part of an effigy at St Michael's, Castle Frome, near Ledbury, in
Herefordshire. The carving is thought to represent Adam de Lacy,
who died in 1297.
Last month, a burial plaque, with a
carved image of John de Breton, Bishop of Hereford between 1269 and
1275, was stolen from Holy Trinity and St Mary, Abbey Dore, also in
The Archdeacon of London, the Ven.
David Meara, this week suggested that an organised gang was
targeting churches. "These monuments do have value to collectors of
antiquities on the international art markets. There is a market for
these things. My suspicion is that they are probably being stolen
to order. . . It doesn't look like opportunistic thefts."
West Mercia Police described the Abbey
Dore stone as "irreplaceable". A spokesperson said: "Local
churchgoers are devastated by the theft of this stone, and we are
very keen to find not only the stone itself, but also the
individual or individuals responsible for stealing it."
The police say that inquiries are
continuing, and urge anyone with information to contact
Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.