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Saxon carving stolen from Yorkshire church

03 July 2015

NORTH YORKSHIRE POLICE

POLICE are hunting thieves who stole an unusual Saxon carving from the family church of the Duchess of Kent.

The sandstone panel dates from the late eighth or early ninth century, and was originally part of the shaft of a cross that stood outside All Saints', which stands beside the ancestral home of the Duchess's family, the Worsleys, in the village of Hovingham, in North Yorkshire. She was baptised there in 1933.

The oblong stone, which is carved with an intricate geometric pattern, was taken some time between 23 May and 6 June, from a window recess inside the church. It measures just over 18 inches tall, about ten inches across, and up to five inches thick. Police say it is very heavy, and the thieves would have needed a vehicle to take it away.

It was originally cut from quarries at Aislaby, near Whitby, which were controlled in medieval times by the monks of Whitby Abbey, who exported stone for sculptural monuments to sites across North and East Yorkshire.

PC Nick Durkin, of North Yorkshire Police, said: "Experts have described the stolen sculpture as unique in its form, layout, and the quality of its carving. We are making extensive inquiries to return this historic artefact. . . I would urge anyone who knows its whereabouts to get in touch."

Last week, the Minister for Policing, Mike Penning, told the House of Commons that stone theft was reaching "epidemic" levels in parts of Britain, and should be treated as a serious organised crime.

He said that specialist prosecutors would soon bring "high-profile" cases against stone thieves who had switched their activities after a government crackdown on the scrap-metal trade.

He was responding to comments from the MP for Colne Valley, West Yorkshire, Jason McCartney, who said that thieves had targeted places of worship in the Kirklees district 132 times in the past three years. He called for a "dedicated stone-theft task force" and larger fines.

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