Rallying call to help stop attacks on historic Norfolk church

Maurice Philpot's last day at the church at Shimpling

Maurice Philpot's last day at the church at Shimpling - Credit: Archant

People living in a south Norfolk village have today been urged to help find the yobs responsible for the 'sustained' and 'senseless' attacks on a 12th century church.

Rural Shimpling and Shimpling Church. Picture: NIGEL PICKOVER

Rural Shimpling and Shimpling Church. Picture: NIGEL PICKOVER

St George's Church at Shimpling, near Diss, has been attacked by vandals six times in as many months.

Many of its tiny windows have been smashed, a wall safe emptied and the door to the 12th century tower had been broken down.

The church, recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade I listed building, has been redundant since 1987 but is under the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.

Maurice Philpot had been church warden at the church since 1987 but recently stood down from the role citing the vandal attacks as the 'catalyst' for the decision.

Mr Philpot, 74, who has been involved with the church for 45 years, said: 'I suppose I'm sad that my involvement has ceased in this way. I'm saddened and dismayed.'

It is believed the incidents started after the church was mistakenly put on a website featuring derelict buildings.

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The acts of vandalism, which began around March, include breaking down the door to the tower, hacking at a donation safe embedded in the church wall, stealing a 19th century Bible and most recently breaking the glass in ten of the 12 windows.

Katrina Hazzard, a spokesman for the Churches Conservation Trust, has described the damage as heartbreaking.

Speaking this week, she said: 'It's shocking to see the love and care that's gone into the building over the centuries being disrespected this way…if someone in the community knows anything we urge them to contact the police.'

Rachel Morley, estates officer for the Churches Conservation Trust, is so 'sick' of the incidents that she wrote a letter to the vandals on her blog. She wrote: 'I do not understand you. This place may mean nothing to you, but it means a lot to others.

'It has meant a lot to others for hundreds of years.

'Churches were, for the most part, built by local people for local people.

'They are the places, where for centuries, ordinary people went to pour out their faith, pitch their hopes, whisper their fears, share their happiest and saddest moments. You are stealing from these people too.

'Churches have a hard enough time as it is. There is no money to repair them and the majority of the population are not interested in them.

'You are driving it to dereliction. And for what?'

Dick Wolsey, heritage crime liaison for Norfolk Police, said: 'Heritage crime is a serious matter. We are working with The Churches Conservation Trust to find those responsible for these sustained attacks on this historic church and others in the area.

'Somebody somewhere knows who is committing these senseless attacks and we urge them to come forward, so we can stop any further damage.'

Anyone with information should call police on 101.

Dark deeds at St George's – p14-15