About 18 months ago our village church was vandalised, it followed on from a spate of vandalism in the area which also included our community centre and offices being burned to the ground! The parish council and church response was to close the church during weekdays, a blow to the local community and the waves of tourists we get to view this Cotswolds medieval church on the banks of the River Thames. But ….. it only lasted for about three months when video cameras were installed around and outside our church. Job done, except the previous vandals were never caught.
For the past two Saturdays Dr C and I have set off mid morning to visit another local church, part of our history quest using churches as the gateway to the English Civil War, The Black Death, a second Robin Hood, 1000 years old wall paintings, Saxon fonts and much more. Two weeks ago it was to the ancient village of Stanton Fitzwarren and yesterday to the hilltop village of Upper Wanborough. We arrived at Wanborough around 10.45am, an hour at the church then a pub lunch …. we hoped.
St Leonard’s church, Stanton Fitzwarren, Wiltshire
St Andrews church, Wanborough, Wiltshire
It was blowing a gale and the rain was like ice needles as we staggered from the car to the main entrance …….. locked and barred! As Victor Meldrew would say, “I don’t believe it”! The same had happened at the previous Stanton Fitzwarren church. Closed except on Sunday due to vandalism!
What a bloody fiasco, which leads me to ask two questions:
1. What state has our country got into that churches have become prime targets for vandalism?
2. What makes parish councils think that church closure is the answer?
The psychologists say that fear of detection is the primary deterrent, as opposed to any punishment fitting the crime. I beg to disagree …. punishments must always fit the crime, so if you desecrate a medieval church, you get a medieval punishment. I’ll leave the rest to your own imagination!