Medieval punishments required?

St Andrews church, Wanborough, Wiltshire

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.
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!
Medieval stocks
Medieval stocks
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9 thoughts on “Medieval punishments required?

  1. The sad thing to me is that these young people are growing up with no higher ambition than mindless vandalism and with no understanding that its their heritage they’re defacing… In my opinion it’s generally due to cluelessness, an unfocussed need for rebellion and a lack of outlet for their energy rather than an actual political statement. Sad indeed, and even sadder that the response is closing the centres that not so many years ago would have perhaps been the first place the same people looked to for the meaning that is so obviously missing from their life. Maybe rather than medieval punishment we need community service specifically designed to make these folks understand that they are part of a society and, with a little effort, can be a useful and valuable part of that society. Or maybe it’s just the wine speaking 😉

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    1. Thank you for your most thoughtful comment, whilst I disagree with your community service view as punishment, I think you have hit the nail on the head about not respecting their heritage. In fact they have no knowledge of their heritage, because heritage comes from “nation” to a great extent, so English/Christian/etc heritage is different from Multicultural/European heritage that means nothing to them. It has been rubbed out of our education system at all levels and English history is “bad”! My heritage from the 1950s is different from their “non heritage” of today. Values and a values system is scoffed at, respect for elders, the law, work ethic, etc are not cool. Buddha help us all!

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  2. Yes, sorry about the unclear comment, not sure why it came into my head! I read somewhere about the dangers of taking things to a “logical extension” that if two people of the same gender can marry …. why can’t someone marry a platypus? It just doesn’t follow. Lock up the vandals, not the fish. It’ll take a generation for it to sink in, but we owe it to our children’s children, or churches, park ponds, bus shelters, etc will disappear from our cultures and landscape. Same with litter louts, the Everest trail and series of camps is now cleaner than our village high street thanks to vicious punitive actions by the local and national government of Nepal. Let’s apply Sharia law here and there.

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  3. It is sad I agree but nothing new. Christians tore down Mosques across Medieval Spain. In England Henry VIII was a monastery vandal, the French Revolutionaries were destroyers of churches and so were the Soviet communists. There will always be an element in society who will be church wreckers. For the time being we have to accept that there are morons amongst us and churches and other places will have to be protected and remained locked!

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    1. I think this IS new. It’s mindless vandalism without any cause, righteous or otherwise. And we have the technology now to stop it, because otherwise the next time your hose is vandalised we knock it down to prevent it happening again. It’s a logical extension and one I have seen used recently concerning same sex marriages.

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      1. Not sure that I follow all of that exactly but I get the gist. So what do we do? We are now a multi-cultural, secular society, a majority of people (I guess) have no respect for our civic and religious heritage. Swathes of immigrants who have no understanding or respect for our history. When I worked in Spalding Eastern Europeans emptied the local park pond of all of its carp for a Sunday dinner! We have to protect what we love and cherish by locking them up to protect them from the vandals. Prevention is a better alternative than allowing it to happen and getting our satisfaction (maybe) through the legal process (in which I have little faith). Here endeth the sermon!

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        1. While we have a different sort of church vandalism in America (whites burning down black churches, white painting or defacing Mosques or Gurdwaras) it is out of pure racism and ignorance (goes hand-in-hand, I know), They type of vandalism that you are talking about sounds more like despondent youth or just plain thugs with nothing better to do. Is there any evidence it is anti-religion or even “swathes of immigrants” as you say? Immigrants rarely bother with such nonsense as they are busy building a new life for themselves.

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        2. Thanks for your comment, I don’t think it’s anti The Church as an establishment, often it’s theft or as you say, youths with nothing better to do. We’re talking about very small English villages here with no recent immigrants, and in our specific case many seemed to know who had carried out the vandalism, including the arson, but there were no witnesses or evidence. If it was concerted vandalism across a city I think it would be a different concept. My post was in utter frustration 😤😤😤

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