Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Desecration of Brontë Bell Chapel

An organised gang of stone thieves is thought to be behind a robbery in Thornton near the historic Bell Chapel, which is connected with Brontë baptisms. About thirty yards  of heavy stone was ripped up - with a total monetary worth of just five hundred pounds. Three gravestones were included in the haul.

The gravestones are six feet by three feet each and six inches thick - which means that it would take four hefty men to lift each one.

“We’re shocked that the church has been desecrated. Some of the graves date back two hundred years. This has upset a lot of local people, it’s just awful,” Old Bell Chapel action group co-ordinator Steve Stanworth said.

Local people have put in twelve years of voluntary labour to restore the Brontë Bell Chapel, and feelings are running high. One stolen gravestone is dated 1790, and another was for John and Mary Pickles and five children, from the early nineteenth century. Another bears the names of Hannah and James Abbott and their 28-year-old daughter Mary. They died in 1828.

The police are appealing for information: the thefts took place between 9pm on Friday 19 October and 8am on Saturday 20 October. Anybody who knows anything about the incident should ring Crimestoppers - 0800 555 111                Click here to email this blog.

Link to BBC report is here.                          Photo: BBC

Read this story from the Huddersfield Daily Examiner about a gang of stone thieves, and this story from The Telegraph about metal thieves operating in Hornchurch, Essex.


Boris Skilet said...

Beware of fluorescent coats!

I was very sad to learn that the 'bell' chapel in Thornton has been desecrated.Having ancestors buried there I was aware of all the hard work that had been voluntarily carried out to make a visit there more pleasant.After lots of hard work by a dedicated band it was much easier to walk in the grounds- where once paths had become overgrown and were very difficult to walk on and gravestones had been covered by long grass and weeds.Unfortunately the old burial ground in Thornton is not the only one to suffer from this kind of vandalism and theft. In the new cemetery, on the other side of Thornton village, many of my relatives are buried and a couple of years ago, whilst visiting a grave there, I was horrified to find that the soil covering this grave had been disturbed and scattered all around. I noticed that several others were in the same condition and on enquiry was told that men had been seen digging through the surface to ascertain if 'Yorkshire' stone slabs were covering the graves.Apparently there is a very lucrative market for these.
At my local church, many miles from Thornton,it too fell victim to this kind of theft when stone slates were taken from the top of the lychgate and a quantity of lead taken from the church roof. On another occasion men wearing fluorescent jackets seemed to be quite legitimate and gave a very plausible answer when challenged about the removal of large stone slabs on a public footpath near the church by a local resident- but they were actually thieves.
To return to the desecration of the 'bell' chapel,I wonder what possible use can be found for an inscribed headstone- rather strange flooring for someone's patio I would think!

B. Skilet said...

'Bronte' connected Thornton seems to be having a bad time at the moment. There was a story in last night's ,Bradford's, 'Telegraph and Argus' that the chairman of the Bronte Birthplace Trust 2012 had discovered the theft of seven stone flagstones from the pathway on Market Street just yards away from the house where Charlote, Branwell, Emily and Anne were born.

Anonymous said...

This is a terrible shame; all the hard work that's gone into making the Old Bell Chapel such a beautiful place now. it doesn't surprise me though - some people will steal anything that isn't theirs. The flagstones from the path leading from Haworth graveyard onto the moors disappear from time to time, and have to be replaced with modern equivalents.