Vandals desecrate ancient church just days after £150,000 restoration

A Grade II* listed medieval church has been vandalised in a horrific attack just 10 days after reopening from repairs.

St Mary Magdalene Caldecote in Hertfordshire was open for just over a week before vandals smashed windows, set off powder fire extinguishers and poured bleach on the altar and pews, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage.

The charity Friends of Friendless Churches had spent £150,000 on the nine-month renovation, fixing the roof which had been damaged by lead thieves and repairing seating.

Frequently visited by passing walkers, the oldest parts of the small church, including a Norman window and lower walls, date back to the 11th century. It also houses a 15th century font and benches.

Vandals are thought to have struck in broad daylight shortly after 4.30pm on Thursday, when a visiting tour group left. Neighbours noticed something was amiss and found the damage just an hour later.

a large brick building with a clock tower in front of a house: St Mary Magdalene Caldecote in Hertfordshire© Provided by The Telegraph St Mary Magdalene Caldecote in HertfordshireVandals smashed windows with rocks at the medieval church© Provided by The Telegraph Vandals smashed windows with rocks at the medieval church

Rachel Morley, director of Friends of Friendless Churches, said the repairs to the windows alone would cost £5,000, with the cost of damage to the floor and pews yet to be measured. Crockery and religious items were also smashed.

The charity relies on membership and donations and has been struggling to maintain a reliable income due a drop in building visitors during the pandemic.

‘It just seems so pointless’

“It just seems so pointless. I can’t understand why somebody would want to do that, but obviously [they] got a thrill from doing it.

“I’ve been in this job for four years and this is the first example of anything like this that I’ve experienced,” she said.

While not regularly used for worship, the church is typically left open to allow visitors to explore, and concerts and festivals are also held there.

Many churches are left open at all times to encourage visitors and in a spirit of openness, but closed during the Covid-19 pandemic to deter congregation.

The group plans to keep it open despite the threat of further vandalism.

“As soon as it’s clean and looking good again it will be open again every day for visitors. When you attract genuine visitors I think it’s a really good deterrent for these things happening,” she added.

The charity posted images of the damage on Twitter and has since had several offers of help including the loan of an industrial vacuum cleaner that it is using to clear the debris. Police arrived within an hour of the vandalism’s discovery and are investigating.


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