Repeated vandalism at a Falmouth church has left the vicar having to clear away glass before a funeral, couples rejecting it as a wedding venue and a repair bill of over £30,000.
Penwerris Church on Stratton Terrace has fallen victim to numerous attacks by vandals who have been targeting the church since last October’s half term holiday. The building’s tall windows have had stones put through them on many occasions and last weekend, the vandals turned their attention to the grounds and prised the top slabs off wall pillars, smashing most of them beyond repair.
Father Mark Mesley said he and his congregation are “disheartened” by the catalogue of attacks which have left the Georgian church, which was built in 1828, facing a bill of around £30,000 to replace the three windows of the grade two listed building.
“It was October half term when we had the first windows smashed and since then we have had about half a dozen incidents,” said Father Mark. “It quietens down for a while and then starts up again.
“Our builders have boarded up the worst ones, but there are so many holes now I have just given up. There are practically more broken panes than there are not. We do have to replace the windows because they are rotten, but we have not got the money – it will cost £10,000 a window plus VAT.”
The church has recently completed a £190,000 project to replace the roof and the interior has been redecorated, but the exterior is now letting the building down.
“It is a shame because basically it’s the windows that you see,” said Father Mark. “We have lost weddings because people come and look around the church and while they like the inside, they do not want to see boarded up windows.
“We have had sporadic vandalism in the past but what surprises me about this is the fact they come back and break the windows again and again. The worst incident was, we had a funeral of a young lad and when we came in on the morning of the funeral, there was glass all over the carpet. It was really quite distressing before a funeral to have to clear up shards of broken glass.
“If they (the vandals) realised the implications of what they were doing, perhaps they would not do it. We have enough problems without people throwing rocks through the windows. It is pure vandalism, they are not doing it for financial gain.
“I do not want to blame any particular group, but it is difficult to imagine adults doing it.”
Father Mark has considered replacing the glass in the windows with polycarbonate sheeting, but prefers to stick with glass and hopes to be able to protect it with a grille, providing planning permission can be obtained.
“It detracts from the appearance of the building, but there is no point spending £30,000 on new windows and then having to board them up again,” he said. “It is a false economy.”