The Vicar of St Peter’s Church in Sowerby says she is “absolutely gutted” that around a dozen flagstones have been stolen from the churchyard.
Revd Jeanette Roberts says the theft occurred after a church initiative had helped spruce up the churchyard, and just before the church was due to host a heritage weekend.
“It’s such a shame,” she said. “It was supposed to be our heritage weekend this weekend and we were expecting a lot of visitors.
“It just undermines all the good work that has been done by our Community Spirit initiative in beautifying the churchyard, removing all the weeds and bringing it back to its former glory.
“We were absolutely gutted. We’ve made such an effort in bringing the churchyard back to life.
“It’s another thing we have to find money for when money for a church is already in short supply.
“We don’t have the money for it. I think we’ll just have to leave it as it is. We don’t want to put any more down in case it goes again.
“The flagstones are Yorkshire stone which I understand is very expensive, so the cost to replace them might be too much.”
Jeanette, who has been the vicar there for six-and-a-half years, reckons the stones, which bore no inscription or artwork, are 100 to 200 years old but will have been restored at some point. The church itself is 253 years old, and runs a community cafe and a lunch club, while there is a community centre attached to the church.
Jeanette says there is little to no chance of the stones being recovered, but has been heartened by the response from the local community.
“We might not have a lot of people sitting in our pews on a Sunday but there’s a great fondness for our building. It’s been a part of people’s lives in the community, and people are upset that this has happened.
“On the one hand I feel gutted that someone feels it’s OK to do this. I would try to understand why someone felt they could do that - as a Christian we are in the business of forgiveness.
“But the response has been overwhelmingly full of love, which outweighs whatever people do that isn’t full of love.”
In a statement, West Yorkshire Police said: “Police were called during the afternoon of Friday, September 13 regarding the theft of Yorkshire stone flags from a churchyard in St Peter’s Avenue in Sowerby Bridge.
“It is believed the stones were taken between Sunday, September 8 and last Friday and a crime has been recorded.
“Anyone who has any information about the theft, who saw the stone being removed, or has been offered stone for sale in suspicious circumstances in the local area is asked to contact the Calderdale Valleys NPT on 101 referencing crime number 13190469962.
“Information can also be given on line at www.westyorkshire.police.uk/101Livechat or anonymously to the independent Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111.”