Sunday, 12 June 2016

Nothing Sacred in Britain, Heritage Least of all it Sometimes Seems

In England gangs of metal detectorists roam the countryside helping themselves to collectable and saleable metal objects from archaeological sites and nobody bats an eyelid. Metal thieves of a different type help themselves to bits of the ancient churches in the adjacent countryside and it seems nobody is at all surprised that they too are getting away with it.

Val Evans, church warden, Ivan Revell-Burrows and Christine Revell-Burrows
at St Mary's Church in Carleton Forehoe, Norwich 
One example of this increasingly common crime took place in Norfolk (Stuart Anderson, 'Repair works start after lead theft at Carleton Forehoe church', Wymondham and Attleborough Mercury 11th June 2016)
Work is now underway to repair the damage to St Mary the Virgin church at Carleton Forehoe, near Wymondham, after a gang of up to 11 thieves stole most of its lead overnight between May 30 and May 31. The lead removal meant rain could flood into the 14th century church, damaging kneeling cushions, a hand-pumped organ, 171-year-old bible and hymn books.[...] Ivan Revell-Burrows, who has been the church’s warden for decades, said he was devastated by the damage, [...] “It’s beyond belief that people are prepared to cause such damage to a place of worship [...] Rev Tim Weatherstone said he expected repairs to cost about £30,000.

Here is another picture, one that saddens me even more as it is a glorious church, a 15th-century Grade I-listed building,  which I personally know very well (Tom Dalby, 'Crooks rampage through Great Bromley church leaving a scene of devastation
Great Bromley raid
Crooks rampaged through a historic church looking for valuables after smashing their way in through a window. Churchwarden Jenny Nicholls was met by a scene of devastation [...]  A safe had been taken from the vestry and carried outside, where it was thrown onto the grass. Jenny said she had never seen anything like it before. She said: “It is awful to come into a church and find it in this state .“[...] They have rampaged through the church looking anywhere and everywhere for things to steal. “They entered through a window, breaking one of the leaded glass windows at the back. “They have gone through every possible area of the church – I don’t think they were looking for any historical items in particular, they just wanted anything valuable.” [...]  Jenny’s husband Fred is Tendring councillor for Great Bromley and the previous chairman of the council. He said: “Here in Great Bromley and other rural areas we are totally exposed and we don’t get any help at all. “When we reported this to police, we were told there wouldn’t be any one coming here and we should tidy the place up [...] I am shocked and very upset – this is despicable .” 
The reported police reaction is indeed shocking and shows just how everyday such heritage crime is becoming, and the low chances that anyone involved will ever be apprehended.

Astoundingly, it seems that in Britain, people who know what is going on and who is doing it are not going to tell unless you offer to buy that information. Rather like the Treasure rewards they give artefact hunters to encourage them to abide by the law. In order to reward members of the public who know something but are otherwise keeping quiet, the Eastern Daily Press and its sister paper the East Anglian Daily Times, are offering "a reward of at least £26,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible" as part of their 'STOP the Roof Raiders Campaign'. Does this not encourage those who have such information to withold it until 'the price is right'?

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