Churches Conservation Trust appeals for return of stolen panels

Rare medieval artwork was badly damaged by the theft at Holy Trinity Church in Torbryan, Devon.

The panels were a rare example of work from the late medieval period
The panels were a rare example of work from the late medieval period

The Churches Conservation Trust has appealed to the public for information following the theft of two 15th century oak panels from a church in Devon.

The charity launched the appeal on Monday after the theft of wooden panels was discovered at the Holy Trinity Church in Torbryan.

The trust cares for 344 churches in England and carries out repair and conservation work.

Crispin Truman, chief executive of the Churches Conservation Trust, said in a statement: "I was shocked to learn of the theft of these panels and the damage done to this significant art work.

"Holy Trinity is a beautiful public building much admired around the country and beyond. This crime will deprive all visitors and researchers of an important part of Devon heritage and is essentially a theft of public property. We hope that by publicising the loss we might be able to recover the panels."

Although some of the oak panels in the church had been missing for many years, the trust says the remaining panels represented an exceptionally complete survival of such work from the late medieval period.

A spokeswoman said the theft was discovered by the trust’s maintenance contractor on 8 August and was believed to have taken place between 22 July and 3 August.

She said the panels were of some monetary value, although they had never been valued by the trust. "Their value to us is in situ in the church, but they would have some worth and be of interest to some people," she said.

The police are looking into the theft and may have a lead, the spokeswoman said, although she did not know the details.

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