LAST year was one that the North Yorkshire parishioners of St John’s, Minskip, near Boroughbridge, were glad to see the back of.
First, a runaway car caused hundreds of pounds’ worth of damage to the Victorian churchyard wall, and then vandals wrecked the nativity tableau in the grounds. “We’ve had a really bad run of luck recently,” the churchwarden, Robert Beaumont, said. “We were absolutely devastated when we saw the extensive damage the car had done to our wall.
“As a small church, we were struggling to find the funds to restore the wall to its former glory. The bill was £800, but we have an excess of £500. It was heartbreaking.” The driver and passengers fled in their damaged car, but left a registration plate, enabling police to trace them. No one admitted to being the driver, however, which made a conviction impossible.
Only weeks later, the church’s Christmas carol service, which was to be held outside to meet Covid restrictions, was threatened when the nativity scene was attacked. “The wise men, the crib, everything, were scattered around the churchyard,” Mr Beaumont said. “To have it destroyed in this wanton and mindless manner was heartbreaking.”
Fortunately, the scene was restored in time for the service. “As one of our church-council members said, love will always triumph over hate, and good over evil,” he said; “but that doesn’t quite extinguish my anger as churchwarden that people should find it appropriate to desecrate our churchyard.”
ROBERT BEAUMONTThe vandalised nativity scene
A local specialist firm, York Handmade Bricks, came forward to donate enough bricks to repair the churchyard wall in time for Christmas. “The wall now looks as good as new,” he said. “Their generosity has improved our mood, underlining the fact that kind acts often follow selfish and destructive ones.”
David Armitage, the chairman of York Handmade Bricks, whose customers include the Shard, St Albans Cathedral, and Magdalene College, Cambridge, said: “As luck would have it, we had some bricks which almost exactly matched the 19th-century church wall. St John’s is a lovely little church, and an important part of village life, and we know how upset villagers were when the wall was wrecked. We are so happy to have played our part in it’s restoration.”