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Vandals desecrate ancient church days after £150,000 restoration

An ancient church is being restored by volunteers after it was ruined by vandals.

St Mary Magdalene’s in Caldecote, Hertfordshire, was damaged on Thursday, 10 days after it had reopened following its nine-month renovation costing £150,000.

The Grade-II medieval building saw in excess of £5,000 worth of damage after trespassers smashed windows, set off powder fire extinguishers and poured bleach over the pews and wooden floor.

Images of the damage were posted on social media and donations and reinforcements for its clean up operation came flooding in. 

Around £3,000 has been raised so far to repair the damage caused, with volunteers coming from miles away to help with the effort.

One man travelled from London “with a bucket and a sponge” to join the team cleaning the church.

a large brick building with a clock tower in front of a house: St Mary Magdalene Caldecote in Hertfordshire - John Robertson for The Telegraph

Rachel Morley, director of the charity Friends of Friendless Churches, which runs St Mary Magdalene's, said: “I’m just really blown away. I wasn’t expecting the [donations]. We’re just a small little church in Hertfordshire - it just seems to have touched a nerve.

“That people have reached into their pockets to support putting this right has restored my faith in the world.

Vandals smashed windows at the medieval church - John Robertson for The Telegraph

 “I was completely bowled over by the support. From the first thing in the morning there was just a stream of people turning up with vacuum cleaners, and cloths and coffees and biscuits, willing to clean up.

“To have people rallying round like that was great, people we’ve never met before. I left last night and it was much better.”

But the effort to restore the church to its short-lived condition before the attack is not complete, with the damage done by the fire extinguisher persisting despite the best efforts of the volunteers.

“It’s everywhere,” said Ms Morley. “It’s in every single crack in the furniture and in the floor, so when you walk over it, the powder balloons out.” 

Reference: Olivia Rudgard, Mason Boycott-Owen

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