THOUSANDS of pounds have been donated to pay for repairs to a Tudor church that was the venue for an illegal New Year’s Eve party.
Three people were arrested on suspicion of public-order and drugs offences when police broke up the event at the Grade II* All Saints’, East Horndon, near Brentwood, in Essex. Afterwards, the volunteer group Friends of All Saints’, which helps to care for the redundant church, appealed online for £2000 to fund the clean-up. By Wednesday, the total on the JustGiving website was more than £20,000.
FRIENDS OF ALL SAINTS’All Saints’, East Horndon, near Brentwood, after the illegal rave
One of the volunteers, Astrid Gillespie, who found out about the rave from a Facebook post on New Year’s Day, said that they were “completely overwhelmed” by people’s “support and generosity — faith in humanity restored”. She continued: “It’s such a beautiful church; to find out it’s been damaged was devastating.”
The organisers of the rave had apparently used a duplicate key to gain access. They smashed a window to put in an extractor fan, wired their sound system into the church’s fuse box, and even installed portable lavatories for the hundreds of revellers.
Ms Gillespie said: “It was a professional set-up. They had a bar area where you had to exchange tokens. There was loads of evidence of drugs, and they’ve done damage to the church; obviously it’s a mess and needs to be completely cleaned out. The ground has been all churned up because they must have had vans dropping off all the equipment.”
When Essex Police intervened, just before midnight, officers were threatened and objects were thrown at them.
The church dates from the end of the 15th century. During the late 19th century, its fabric had deteriorated so badly that it was described as “almost ruinous”, and it closed in 1898. In the early 20th century, it was restored, but again began to decline.
A bomb during the Second World War blew out much of the stained glass and weakened its structure, and, after the war, a tramp set the tower alight, and thieves stole items from the church, including its four bells. In 1970, it was declared redundant. Since then, the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) has organised repairs and restorations. Before the Covid pandemic, it was regularly used for public events.
The Area Dean of Brentwood, Canon Paul Hamilton, whose parish of Ingrave includes All Saints’, told LBC: “The place stinks of drugs. None of us are angels, and we have all pushed the boundaries a little bit in our time, but this really was very unsafe, and it was a very disrespectful way to use a church that is historically of phenomenal interest.
“There are so many historic figures buried there — we have got a former Speaker of the House of Commons buried there — and drugs and paraphernalia were all over their graves.”
A CCT spokeswoman said: “We are very saddened that those intent on ignoring government restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus broke into the historic church. Our team have been on site to make the church secure and to assess the damage caused to the historic fabric of the building.
“We are extremely grateful for the support and money raised by local volunteers, and to Essex police for their timely intervention. We will be pursuing all possible avenues for recompense to put right the damage.”