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Thief smashes priceless Cambridge church windows by Victorian artist

A rare stained glass window worth thousands of pounds has been smashed by a would-be thief breaking into a city centre church.

St Botolph’s Church on Trumpington Street was broken into last week when the burglar tried to kick down the door of the vestry, hoping to find valuables locked inside.

Now the church is fundraising to fix the window, which was painted by Victorian artist Charles Kempe, who learnt his craft under the famous George Bodley.

Church Warden Dan Jones with the broken parts of the 1870 stained glass window at St Botolph's Church, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell. (28865766)
Church Warden Dan Jones with the broken parts of the 1870 stained glass window at St Botolph's Church, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell. (28865766)

Dan Jones, the churchwarden, said: “It happened overnight and was discovered by our organist who came in early the next morning to practice. The thief has got onto the vestry roof and kicked the bottom panel out of the window, got into the interior of the church and has then attempted to kick down the door of the vestry.”

The break-in happened some time in the early hours of Tuesday, February 4. It is the second time the church has been recently targeted by thieves as late last year the lead roof of the vestry was stolen.

“Reading the newspapers up and down East Anglia we get the impression it is going on a lot,” said Mr Jones. “It seems like organised criminality of some description is targeting churches throughout the region.”

The window that was smashed was installed in the 19th century as part of the Arts and Crafts restoration of the church.

It consists of three panels, the central one showing St Botolph, after whom the church is named, while the damaged panel depicts St Margaret of Antioch.

Mr Jones said: “Whenever you see these windows you can sense straight away how vulnerable they are because they are pretty old, extremely beautiful and unique. So, as a member of the church and the church warden you constantly worry about them, and then to see them kicked out and destroyed in that way, it’s a bit depressing really for everyone involved.

“The window is priceless in the sense that it is an original work of art, and so irreplaceable. But we have a duty to make the best of it, if we can. There are excellent conservators and we still have some of the glass.

“We will have to think about how we beef up security around the building. The repair to the window itself is going to cost thousands and it will take months. I believe that the stained glass craftsmen can reconstruct about 70 per cent of it. It is fixable but it’s the cost involved and the sense of vulnerability when you look around and think, what’s next?”

The church has set up a GoFundMe page aiming to raise £10,000 to fix the window. Donations can be made at justgiving.com/crowdfunding/stbotolphscambridge.

Anyone with information should call police on 101 citing reference 354/90904/20.

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