Village of Hoe, near Dereham, heartbroken at post box theft
It has been part of the village fabric longer than any of its residents but would have been visited by most of them at some point in their lives.
But heartless thieves have ripped out the Victorian post box in the little village of Hoe, near Dereham, leaving a gaping hole in the churchyard wall where its bright red front had been such a familiar sight.
Sue Malt, who runs the village archive, said nobody heard the theft but a nearby resident noticed it has been taken at 10pm on Monday, February 1. He had only walked past it three hours earlier and it was still intact.
'Initially I thought it has been taken for scrap but then I heard that they are quite collectable and can fetch a lot of money,' she said.
'It was just beautiful, a real little gem and it is heartbreaking when you think of all the people who plodded up there to post a letter over all those years.
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'It is so pointless.'
The theft has been reported to police who are investigating but Mrs Malt said they feel the culprits came prepared.
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'It was very swift and they clearly knew what they were doing,' she said. 'There are cottages either side and nobody heard anything. It had been very carefully edged out of the wall. A couple of strong people could have easily lifted it into a car or a van.'
They are hoping that a couple of distinctive marks will help to trace the missing post box.
It is one of the rarer ones remaining from the Victorian era and bears the letters 'VR'. There is also a completely unique crack through those letters which will easily identify it if any attempt is made to sell it on via the internet or at auction.
Trevor Wood, chairman of Hoe and Worthing parish meeting, said the theft came just as the villages of Hoe and Worthing were starting out on their Clean for the Queen initiative, a campaign launched by Country Life magazine in partnership with Keep Britain Tidy to clear up Britain in time for The Queen's 90th birthday.
'We arranged a three-day litter pick and cleaning of our two churchyards, the outside area of our shared parish meeting room and both renovating and cleaning defences left from the last war,' he said.
'On the first day and before we have started we are left to deal with a theft and level of vandalism which nobody could have anticipated. We would appreciate any help in bringing the offenders to justice and to return our post box.
'This theft is a great disappointment to our parishioners who treasured its place in the whole setting of our conservation area.'
* Anyone with information should contact Norfolk Police on 101 and quote reference number 36/16281/16 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111 or online at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.