Vandals urinate in church as they damage and steal items two days before Christmas

A village community has rallied round after its local church was desecrated by vandals just two days before Christmas.

Photo courtesy of St Peter's Church Upper Arley
Photo courtesy of St Peter's Church Upper Arley

A group of as yet unknown miscreants broke in to St Peter's Church at Upper Arley on the night of December 23 and caused chaos in the building as they urinated, damaged pews and a piano, tore off a door and stole irreplaceable items.

The full extent of the damage was not widely known until Wednesday of this week, as emergency work was being done to make the building secure and watertight again.

Louvain Beer, treasurer and lay minister at St Peter's, said: "The community has taken this personally. It is their church, it belongs to them, and it has been desecrated by these people from outside.

"There is a mixture of sadness and anger about it. The damage caused is going to cost a lot of money to repair, and of course on top of that we are going to have to think about putting in more security to protect the building."

Beer cans were found outside, a joint found inside. The belfry clock and a donations box - fortunately not containing much of a bounty - were stolen.

As if that were not bad enough, the vandals urinated near the church altar.

The hand bells, Louvain explained, are virtually priceless. The church elders are unsure of their age, but suspect that they were donated by either the Woodward or Annesley family at least 150 years ago.

Louvain added: "The got all the way up into the bell tower, and left the doors open so over Christmas when it rained the water just poured in. We know they were climbing around, and if they had taken one misstep they would have killed themselves."

Not only is it an extra insult that the damage was done over Christmas, but we understand that police did not attend until December 27.

The Arley community has taken it upon itself to help restore and protect St Peter's in the wake of the attack. Groups of volunteers took part in the clean up operation, a local resident has made the church watertight, and plans are afoot to organise a barbecue to raise money to cover costs.

In the meantime, the public are urged to be on the lookout for the set of 12 hand bells. Louvain added that she wants to make them 'too hot to handle' so that they will be recovered.

A West Mercia Police spokesperson said: "Overnight of December 23/24 St Peter’s Church, in Upper Arley, north Worcestershire and the neighbouring Arley Arboretum were both broken into and vandalised.

"While inside the church, the intruders urinated in the chancel next to the alter, smashed a leaded window, damaged a piano lid and two pews, and tore off the door to the empty wall safe. They also broke into the bell tower and stole a set of hand bells. The incident is being treated as a hate crime.

"During the same night, the walls inside the arboretum were spray painted with graffiti tags and other areas daubed with white paint.

"Officers have attended the scene and are investigating. It is not yet known if the two incidents are related but it is a line of enquiry.

"Anyone who has any information is urged to call 101 or visit our website, quoting incident 177i of December 24, 2021 or report it online via our website."

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