Heritage and Cultural Property Crime in a Regional Setting

The EARC regional heritage report has heritage and cultural property crime as one of the themes. It includes an overview of the response to heritage crime in the four regional police forces in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Kent.

There are six case studies:

1. Damage to churches

2. Illegal metal-detecting and disposal of finds

3. Architectural theft

4. Criminal damage and anti-social behaviour

5. Shipwreck interference

6. Cyber and new technologies

The section concludes with some suggestions for addressing heritage crime protection.

The project is grateful to Mark Harrison (Historic England) and Andy Bliss for their assistance with the report.

Gill, D. W. J., M. Kelleher, P. Matthews, T. M. Pepperell, H. Taylor, M. Harrison, C. Moore, and J. Winder. 2022. From the Wash to the White Cliffs: The Contribution of the Heritage Sector. Eastern Academic Research Consortium (EARC) <https://kar.kent.ac.uk/96160/>.

Mwnt: Heritage Crime in Wales

Mwnt © David Gill

During December the small church at Mwnt in Ceredigion was vandalised not just once but twice (“Mwnt church vandalism prompts £20k fundraising appeal“, BBC News 3 January 2022). Windows and the entrance to the churchyard were damaged. These vulnerable structures need public protection.

A JustGiving page has been set up to help fund the restoration.

Hagia Sophia and UNESCO World Heritage

Hagia Sophia © David Gill

The historic area of Istanbul was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985. One of the finest structures in this part of the city is the 6th century church of Hagia Sophia that was turned into a mosque following the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Under Kemal Atatürk the building was turned into a museum emphasising the secular nature of the republic.

It is now proposed to turn the structure back into a mosque (“Hagia Sophia: Turkey delays decision on turning site into mosque“, BBC News 2 July 2020). The topic has been widely discussed in Greece (e.g. “Museum or mosque? Turkey debates iconic Hagia Sophia’s status“, ekathimerini.com 1 July 2020). France has now added its voice to the debate (e.g. “France says Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia must remain open to all“, ekathimerini.com 2 July 2020).

Quay Place to close

Quay Place, opening 2016 © David Gill

In October 2016 Quay Place opened in Ipswich. It was a partnership between the Churches Conservation Trust and Suffolk Mind, and allowed this fine medieval church to have a new lease of life. The project was presented as a case study in the DCMS Heritage Statement (2017).

It has now been announced that Quay Place is due to close due to the financial squeeze caused by the pandemic (“Coronavirus: Suffolk Mind to close Ipswich’s Quay Place“, BBC News 15 June 2020). The future of the building is unclear.

Kennington and classical allusions

St Mark’s, Kennington © David Gill

St Mark’s, Kennington was one of four churches built in London in thanksgiving for the victory at the Battle of Waterloo, opening in June 1824. The architectural style is neo-classical. The front entrance is in effect a Doric portico, but above it is an Ionic cupola. This evokes the 4th century BC choregic monument of Lysikrates in Athens (though constructed in a Corinthian architectural style).

Monument of Lysikrates, Athens © David Gill

The front of the church is in the Doric style evoking classical buildings such as the Hephaisteion at Athens that stands above the Agora.

St Mark’s Kennington © David Gill

The Hephaisteion, Athens © David Gill

Essex Sea-horse

St Mary the Virgin, Layer Marney, Essex © David Gill

This sea-horse features among the sea creatures at the bottom of a large mural of St Christopher in the church of St Mary the Virgin at Layer Marney in Essex. The painting dates to c. 1520; its good condition is due to the fact that it was overpainted in the Reformation. It was rediscovered when the church was re-ordered in 1870.

St Mary the Virgin, Layer Marney, Essex © David Gill

Ruthwell Cross

Ruthwell Cross © David Gill

The Ruthwell Cross now stands in a specially constructed apse (1887) in Ruthwell Parish Church (although it is in the care of Historic Scotland). It is some 5.7 m in height, and dates to the early 8th century.

The inscribed text includes sections of The Dream of the Rood linked to Caedmon.

Ruthwell Cross © David Gill

Ruthwell Cross © David Gill

Ruthwell Cross © David Gill

Ruthwell Cross © David Gill

The cross stood at the entrance to the Manse from 1823 to 1887 (when it was placed in the church).

Church Heritage: “the jewel in the crown of our national heritage”


© David Gill

Caroline Wyatt (“Should buildings be a priority for the Church?“, BBC 21 December 2015) has written a provocative piece on the Church of England and its buildings. She asks:

Can the Church of England sustain its almost 16,000 church buildings in the face of declining and ageing congregations, especially in rural areas?

The report includes a mention of Suffolk, a county with a wealth of historic churches.

There are also other issues facing rural parishes, such as the shortage of clergy and lay officials willing to serve in rural communities.

But the rector of St Nicholas church in Rattlesden in Suffolk, Reverend Christopher “Tiffer” Robinson, says that is no reason to abandon smaller countryside churches, which he believes are often the lifeblood of their local village.

“While so much of the rest of society counts things in terms of population or numbers, and says ‘there aren’t many people there so we’ll withdraw from there’, in the Church we don’t think in those ways,” he says.

“People who are in small villages are just as important to God as those who live in more populated areas. That means that we are here for the whole community, and not just the people who come on Sunday.”

His congregation agrees, seeing their parish and their church as a community that has been there for them throughout their lives, especially at difficult or happy times.

In Suffolk, the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich has been promoting its churches through a clearly articulated church tourism strategy linked to walks (“Angels and Pinnacles“).

The Bishop of Worcester is right to observe: England’s rural parish churches are “the jewel in the crown of our national heritage”.

Church Heritage in Suffolk

May 2015
May 2015

The May edition of the East Anglican (the diocesan magazine for St Edmundsbury and Ipswich) has a feature by Marion Welham on church tourism and the Angels and Pinnacles initiative. It notes the launch of the ‘Bells and Battlements’ launched at the Suffolk Unlocked event at Trinity Park, Suffolk (2015). There is a mention of the Heritage Futures seminar led by Marion earlier in the year.

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