Vandals target disused church in Leicester and smash up pulpit

| September 7, 2010

Vandals have repeatedly targeted a disused church.

Shocked former parishioners discovered smashed stained-glass windows, a destroyed pulpit and ripped-up hymn books when they visited St Saviour's Church, in Highfields, Leicester.

The building has not been used for worship for five years but church-goers had gone there on Sunday to collect memorial plaques dedicated to members of their family.

They believe trespassers have been regularly breaking into the building.

Former parishioner Gwen Smith, 70, and husband Roy, 72, from Ratby, visited the church on Sunday.

Mrs Smith, who was married at the church 50 years ago, said: "On entering the church, our hearts stopped.

"The vandals had been in and it was total sacrilege. It was unbelievable – heartbreaking."

She said the marble pulpit had been stripped of its brass fixings and left in pieces on the floor. White communion linen was torn on the floor of the vestry.

Dozens of used condoms and make-shift beds were also found in the aisles of the grade II-listed church.

Six volunteers who helped move the church's last remaining bell on Sunday to nearby Sacred Heart Church, in Mere Road, also saw the damage.

Karen Green, 39, from Humberstone, said: "It's sacrilege.

"Something needs to be done about these people who seem hell-bent on desecrating something precious to so many.

"This building has so much heritage – it was designed by the architect who designed St Pancras station – and needs to be preserved and looked after, not left to crumble."

Father John Lally, from Scared Heart Church, said: "It's very sad and very tragic.

"It's only recently that the trouble has occurred – in the past couple of weeks.

"Youngsters are breaking in and causing damage. They've started numerous fires. It's quite upsetting."

Andrew Granger Estate Agents, which manages the building, said the problems started about three-and-a-half weeks ago. But it said they had escalated to "daily break-ins".

Police officers are visiting the church daily and there are plans for extra security at the site.

Elizabeth Watson, from the estate agency, said: "We removed all the valuables, any silver or metals, people could strip and sell off and we're securing the building as best we can.

"It's a lovely old building and we're trying to find a future for it. We want to do the right thing for the building."

A police spokeswoman said: "We are aware of recent damage caused to St Saviour's Church in St Saviour's Road.

"The area is regularly patrolled by neighbourhood officers and police are in liaison with those responsible for the building to ensure it is properly secured."

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