'Disbelief' as 18th century gravestone stolen from Norfolk churchyard
PUBLISHED: 09:30 20 March 2018 | UPDATED: 09:36 20 March 2018
Archant © 2018
A vicar has expressed her sadness at the theft of an 18th century gravestone from a Norfolk churchyard.
The grey, granite headstone was stolen from St Mary the Virgin and St Botolph Church in Hevingham at some point last week.
It comes after the same church was targeted by lead thieves in 2016, causing £30,000 worth of damage.
The Revd Margaret McPhee, rector of the Horsford benefice, said a church warden spotted the gravestone had gone missing on Thursday.
“My reaction was disbelief at first, and then sadness” she said. “It could be that someone likes to have that sort of thing in their garden or as a trophy. Or it could have been stolen to order.
“But it shows no regard to the historical value of the stone or to the person buried there.”
The gravestone marks one of around 300 burial plots at the church, which is located within the Broadland district.
It had been laid on the ground over the plot due to it being structurally unsafe, Mrs McPhee said.
“We have no evidence as to who has done it,” she added. “Although someone did witness a white van going into the churchyard on Thursday morning.”
Police said they were aware of the incident and are now appealing for anyone with information to come forward.
The gravestone is rectangular in shape, with an arch at the top, and was located near the front porch of the church prior to its theft.
Photos of the burial plot now show a faint outline in the snow where the headstone was once placed.
Mrs McPhee said she did not have the details of who was buried there, but added that in the coming days she will go through the church records to find out more.
A police spokesman said: “Anyone with information or who may have seen anything suspicious is asked to contact Aylsham Police Station on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.”
Back in June 2016, the church had a large amount of lead stripped form its roof and porch by criminals.
Almost two years later and Mrs McPhee said the church was now “almost there” with funding for a new roof.
“We don’t want anything else to happen now,” she said.
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