Parishioners left ‘desolate’ after historic bells stolen from West Suffolk church

Mark Westley Photography'Little Saxham church, Parishioners angry after two 15th centry bells are stolen from the church.'Catherine Burt PCC member, John Taylor Tresurer, Gillian Schorer-Nixon church warden and Mike Burt PCC secretary. ANL-141022-231301009
Mark Westley Photography'Little Saxham church, Parishioners angry after two 15th centry bells are stolen from the church.'Catherine Burt PCC member, John Taylor Tresurer, Gillian Schorer-Nixon church warden and Mike Burt PCC secretary. ANL-141022-231301009
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Parishioners say they have been left ‘desolate’ after thieves stole two irreplacable historic bells from a church in a West Suffolk village.

They fear the heavy bronze bells, which are more than 500-years-old and taken from the nave of St Nicholas Church, in Little Saxham early last week, will be melted down.

It follows an incident at St Mary’s Church, in Dalham, between Oct 12 and 13 when intruders entered a bell tower by forcing open and damaging a door but nothing was stolen. The church was previously targeted in July when when tens of thousands of pounds worth of lead was stolen from its roof.

Police are now warning communities to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity around churches immediately.

Mike Burt, parochial church council secretary for St Nicholas, said: “You don’t expect this to happen so one obviously feels rather desolate. It’s devastating to think they’ve been taken away from us and the fear, the tragedy if they were melted down.”

He said the bells were cast in 1500 by Richard Brayser, of Norwich, and stood in the nave since 1982 after a major refurbishment of the church tower. A single treble bell was left to ring in the belfry.

Mr Burt said: “The congregation had considered them an unlikely target because of their size and the relatively low value of bronze bell metal but will sorely miss these beautiful example of English craftmanship.”

He believes the theft, between 8pm on Oct 14 and 8am on Oct 15, would have required a large van and has asked motorists who may have been inconvenienced by such a vehicle parked by the church to contact police.

Detective Inspector Nick Power, of Bury CID, said the Little Saxham theft proved theives were no longer just targeting lead.

He said: “Stealing bells of this size or large amounts of lead requires a significant amount of effort and also a large vehicle to load it on. As such thieves would not be inconspicuous and I would appeal to local communities to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity around churches to police immediately.”

Contact 101 quoting reference BR/14/759.