Burglar causes extensive damage at Sidmouth Parish Church
- Credit: Archant
A burglar broke through a 150-year-old stained glass window and caused thousands of pounds of damage at Sidmouth Parish Church.
Members of the congregation were ‘shocked and disappointed’ to discover the damage ahead of the 8am service on Sunday, which had to be cancelled for police enquiries.
A laptop, a projector and the video recorder for the CCTV that would have captured the break-in were stolen – but the cost to fix the damage will greatly exceed their value.
It was one of a spate of at least eight church break-ins around Devon in recent weeks, with valuables like silver left behind each time.
The Reverend Canon Dr Philip Bourne said: “My initial reaction was shock. I haven’t witnessed anything like this before, but I know it happens quite regularly.
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“I feel sorry for the person who did it. He was unable to consider the consequences of his actions on the community.
“It’s quite an affront to the people of Sidmouth. Some people have come to this church their whole lives.
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“This building is the parish church for the people of Sidmouth and a lot of effort goes into keeping it here – not just for now, but for future generations.
“I would encourage other groups to learn from this. Any of us could be targeted by somebody looking for a bit of cash.”
The burglar entered the church by breaking through the lower panels of a stained glass window on the northern side of the building, dating back to the 1860s, and damaged another.
Church leaders believe they have most of the pieces.
Churchwarden Professor Brian Golding said it was fortunate a window given to the town by Queen Victoria – recently restored in a £70,000 project – was not affected and they can call on the same expert for the repairs.
The locks were smashed off several doors that will have to be replaced, but the curve-topped door to the tower, also dating back to the 1860s, can only be repaired.
Mr Golding added: “The police think it must be a single person. The perpetrator made a hole in one of the stained-glass windows to get in and damaged another. The first we knew was when people turned up for the 8am service.
“We couldn’t hold the service because the police had to be called. They were very good, very efficient and we were able to hold the 10am service.
“People were shocked and disappointed that so much mess can be made for so little gain. The visitors in particular were very comforting.
“My immediate reaction was, thank goodness it wasn’t a lot worse.
“It’s going to be quite a costly job replacing all the doors. As for the stained glass windows, we have no idea. We’re insured, but I don’t know how much it will cover.
“It’s been a long since the last burglary – it must be 20 years.”
The incident happened between 9pm on Saturday, July 8, and 7.30am the following morning. Anyone with information should call police on 101 and quote crime reference CR/055796/17.
Sergeant Andy Squires, who leads the town’s policing team, said there had been at least seven other burglaries recently at churches around Devon.