Thieves target Broadland churches and put fundraising at risk

Theives who broke into Thurne church (St Edmund the King Martyr) before Christmas.December 2014.Pict

Theives who broke into Thurne church (St Edmund the King Martyr) before Christmas.December 2014.Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2014

A rural church is locking its doors until Easter after it was targeted by thieves.

Clippesby Church (St Peters) Picture: James Bass

Clippesby Church (St Peters) Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2014

Churchwardens of St Edmund's in Thurne are being forced to shut the doors, stopping passers-by from going inside for a rest or quiet reflection, for fear they could be looted again.

In the past month,

thieves have stolen from three Broadland village churches, hitting Clippesby and Repps with Bastwick as well as Thurne.

At St Edmund's criminals struck a few weeks before Christmas, taking a Bishop's Chair and a heavy wooden chest used to store a Victorian bible, books and candles.

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They also damaged the church's original medieval door while fleeing the scene. By forcing the wardens to close the church to the public when they are not there, St Edmund's supporters will find it harder to raise funds for urgent repairs.

The church needs £241,000 to replace the rotting thatched chapel roof and restore damaged stonework; £181,000 will come from a Heritage Lottery Fund grant if the church can raise the remaining £60,000 itself.

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But without coins being dropped into the donation box by visitors, it could take longer to collect the cash.

Churchwardens Pat George and Pauline Parker said the Raising the Roof fundraising campaign will carry on regardless, but the theft was a heavy blow.

'We're hoping to start the work in 2015 but we've got a long way to go to raise that amount of money,' said Mrs George.

'For years, we'd always left the church open because most of our money comes from the donation box.

'But after the theft, the police advised us to keep it locked up.

'They must have been in during daylight, then come back at night. Maybe they were looking for lead, which we don't have as we're thatched, so they took what they could find.'

At St Peter's Church in nearby Clippesby, churchwarden Jean Lindsay discovered there had been a similar theft on Christmas Eve.

She said: 'They had taken four carved chairs which we'd actually had to replace chairs than were stolen a few years ago.

'They probably tried to take the Bishop's Chair but couldn't fit it through the small cemetery door.

'It's such a shame.'

Meanwhile, electric heaters were recently stolen from St Peter's in Repps.

A spokesman for Norfolk police said they were aware of all three thefts, but the incidents were not being linked. Anyone with information on what happened is asked to call 101.

For more information on Thurne's Raising the Roof campaign, call Mrs George on 01692 670336.

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