'Heartbreaking' - Vandals force landmark church to close after damage spree

The thatched roof at St Margaret's Church in Hales was repaired in late 2020.

The thatched roof at St Margaret's Church in Hales was repaired in late 2020. - Credit: Churches Conservation Trust

One of Norfolk's most iconic round tower churches has been vandalised and closed until further notice.

Windows were smashed at St Margaret's Church in Hales, near Loddon, while a communion rail was broken off and stolen from the 12th century church.

The national conservation charity, the Churches Conservation Trust, which cares for St Margaret's, has now closed it until further notice.

A smashed window at St Margaret's Church, in Hales.

A smashed window at St Margaret's Church, in Hales. - Credit: Churches Conservation Trust

Norfolk Police are investigating the incident and say enquiries are ongoing, while a maintenance team has cleaned up some of the damage caused, which is believed to have taken place on New Year's Day.

Kate Roma, the charity's local volunteering officer, said the damage was discovered during a routine visit by maintenance staff.

She said: "Unfortunately, our maintenance team recently discovered extensive vandalism at St Margaret's Church, Hales, in Norfolk.

The missing communion rail at St Margaret's Church in Hales.

The missing communion rail at St Margaret's Church in Hales. - Credit: Churches Conservation Trust

"The round tower and thatched roof of this 12th century church is a landmark in the landscape and well known by locals.

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"Windows have been smashed and the communion rail has been broken off and stolen.

"Beer bottles and cigarette butts were found inside the church and, in the churchyard, a bench has been vandalised.

Damage caused to the wall and window at St Margaret's Church, in Hales.

Damage caused to the wall and window at St Margaret's Church, in Hales. - Credit: Churches Conservation Trust

"Thank you to Norfolk Police who were quickly on the scene with forensics and to the maintenance team who have now been able to clean up.

"Unfortunately, the church will need to remain closed until further notice. 

"St Margaret's is such a lovely church in the local area and is frequented by walkers and visitors.

"The thatched roof was repaired in late 2020, which makes this act of vandalism so heartbreaking."

A spokesperson for Norfolk Police said: "Officers are investigating an incident of criminal damage at St Margaret’s Church, in Hales, after several windows were smashed, and a wall damaged.

"The incident happened sometime on January 1, 2022.

"Enquiries are ongoing."

Anyone looking to volunteer with the CCT to look after the church is asked to contact Ms Roma on 07721 866 425, or email kroma@thecct.org.uk.

Donations to the church can be made on the website www.visitchurches.org.uk/HAS, or by texting HAS to 70191 to donate £10.