Brentwood Tudor church damaged in illegal New Year's Eve party raises nearly £20,000 for repairs
- Credit: Essex Police
After a Tudor church was hijacked for a New Year's Eve rave and left with thousands of pounds worth of damage, the community have raised nearly £20,000 for repairs in a matter of days - smashing the original target of £2,000.
The plight of the historic church in East Horndon has drawn attention from the nation's media as well as from abroad, says Astrid Gillespie, who heads up Friends of All Saints Church.
"My heart just sank," she explains on finding out about the incident. "I found out when I woke up on New Year's Day, I couldn't believe what I was seeing.
"I called the rector, Paul Hamilton, we went down and police were still loading up equipment. It looked like a festival had taken place there."
Essex Police say hundreds attended in breach of coronavirus restrictions and that objects were thrown at officers while they tried to shut the party down. Three people were arrested on suspicion of drugs and public order offences, music equipment was seized and police continue to try to trace the organisers, and another on suspicion of burglary.
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An illegal copy of the keys to the church was taken, which will involve a new bespoke lock being fitted, at a cost of £1,000. A window was broken and used for an air extraction, the walls were damaged when blacking out the windows, and the electrics were tampered with to power their equipment. There was also evidence of drug use, rubbish everywhere, gas canisters and the surrounding ground was dug up.
"We worked out we needed around £2,000 to repair all the damage but with Christmas just gone and everything that's happened this year, I started with £1,000. I was amazed to have passed it in just one hour and £2,000 in two hours!
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"The feeling of love and support from the public was absolutely overwhelming and it's still coming in, as well as loads of messages of support."
With an extra £18,000, the team are now working with The Churches Conservation Trust to work out a repair list for projects they would
have only hoped to complete in many years, including new plastering on the ceiling, relining the walls, and attending to the graves swamped by brambles and plants.
Chief Inspector Richard Melton of Essex Police said: “It is the reckless minority of people who organise and attend unauthorised events of this kind that risk spreading Covid-19 and jeopardising the efforts of the majority of people who are doing the right thing.
"Where they refuse to, as in the cases on New Year’s Eve, we will not hesitate to issue fines and seize equipment.
“I’d urge anyone who is considering attending events like this to think about the risk they pose not only to themselves but to their loved ones, and the wider impact that the spread of the virus has on our communities.”