Nazi symbols scrawled on ancient Essex church

PUBLISHED: 16:12 13 January 2010 | UPDATED: 22:07 31 May 2010

A vandal spray painted swastikas onto the altar floor

A vandal spray painted swastikas onto the altar floor

AN ANCIENT church has been desecrated by vandals who daubed swastikas on its tiled floor and ripped up a 100-year-old bible. On the year of its millennium anniversary, St Mary the Virgin Church in Strethall near Saffron Walden had Nazi symbols and obscene

AN ANCIENT church has been desecrated by vandals who daubed swastikas on its tiled floor and ripped up a 100-year-old bible.

On the year of its millennium anniversary, St Mary the Virgin Church in Strethall near Saffron Walden had Nazi symbols and obscene words scrawled in white spray paint on its floor, walls and wooden benches.

Churchwarden Liz Stott said: "I was absolutely horrified by what had happened and saddened that someone should feel so strongly as to do this in such a beautiful and tranquil church.

"We had recently completed restoration work, which had been ongoing for about 10 to 15 years, and the church was in the best condition it's ever been in."

Walkers from nearby Littlebury Green stopped to have a look inside the church, which is kept unlocked during the day, last Tuesday and noticed the hymn numbers and ripped out pages of the bible strewn across the floor.

Most of the damage, which is estimated to be worth about £1000, was concentrated in the chancel - the space around the altar at the top end of the church.

"The nature of the graffiti was quite shocking," said the churchwarden who had been alerted to the incident by telephone. "Thankfully I was able to remove most of the paint from the tile work myself using nail-varnish remover, but cleaning it from the wooden pews was a professional job which wasn't completed until Monday.

"The bible, which we think is about 100 years old, had big chunks of pages ripped out and has now been sent off for repair."

The Grade I listed Saxon church, which dates from 1010, is one of the oldest in Essex and is part of the Parish of the Icknield Way Villages. It is still used regularly for worship on a monthly basis.

Parish Rector, Rev Andy Colebrooke, said: "This year is the church's millennium anniversary and we won't let this recent vandalism stand in the way of our planned celebrations. We have a number of events lined up including a visit by the Bishop of Colchester in September.

"I think it's important that we keep the church open during the day because people like to go there for some quiet and reflection."

The vandalism follows a similar incident which occurred at Ickleton Parish Church in November when the doorway was sprayed with swastikas.

Anyone with information about the incident should contact PC Georgie Parrott at Saffron Walden Police Station on 0300 333 4444.

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