Thieves stealing St Albans heritage

PUBLISHED: 19:32 15 October 2009 | UPDATED: 14:33 06 May 2010

Cllr Melvyn Teare at Sopwell Nunnery

Cllr Melvyn Teare at Sopwell Nunnery

OPPORTUNIST thieves are stealing chunks of the city s history after targeting a 16th century monument for building materials. A large chunk of historic Sopwell Nunnery, along Cottonmill Lane in St Albans, has been demolished and parts of it stolen during

Some of the damage done

OPPORTUNIST thieves are stealing chunks of the city's history after targeting a 16th century monument for building materials.

A large chunk of historic Sopwell Nunnery, along Cottonmill Lane in St Albans, has been demolished and parts of it stolen during a recent raid.

The ruin is all that remains of a Tudor mansion built in around 1560 by Sir Richard Lee, a soldier and royal engineer who was granted the land by Henry VIII during the English Reformation as it was the site of a medieval nunnery dating back to 1140.

A 6ft wide and 4ft tall section of the ruin, which is a scheduled monument and listed building of national significance, was dismantled by the thieves who then appear to have stolen any unbroken bricks, along with a slab of masonry measuring more than 21 sq ft.

Significance

Cllr Melvyn Teare, portfolio holder for culture and heritage, said: "These people are stealing our heritage. I just find it so annoying that they probably intend to sell these items to the public, who may not be aware that they are buying stolen property from a place of significant heritage in St Albans.

"We have been looking after these areas for a good number of years then suddenly we are starting to see things disappearing. A lot of people go to a lot of work to be able to protect the heritage, interpret the heritage and educate people about it. If it starts to disappear then all that work goes to the wall."

He added: "People may just be using the materials for a brick wall but they have far more value being left where they are."

District archaeologist Simon West said: "It doesn't really make any sense. This is all part of our heritage, it belongs to everybody, but somebody has taken it away for individual use."

Mr West revealed that the council is in talks with English Heritage, who oversee monuments of such significance, on the best way to make repairs to the ruin, which could run into thousands of pounds.

One option being considered to protect the monument would be to put railings up around it, but he admitted it would be a great shame to deny the public close access to the site.

St Albans neighbourhood team Inspector Mike Hanson said: "It is unacceptable that stones have been removed from this listed ruin as these actions have only succeeded in defacing a piece of our local heritage.

"We have undertaken a number of lines of enquiry into this incident and will continue to keep an eye on and patrol the area."

Anyone with any information should contact the police on 0845 33 00 222 quoting crime reference F1/09/4358. The thefts are believed to have taken place between September 24-25.

Mr West has also asked that any members of the public who notice any further damage or suspicious activity around local historical ruins to contact him on 01727 819338 or simon.west@stalbans.gov.uk

l Theft of building materials is becoming an increasing problem in the district. Just last week, the Herts Advertiser reported on the theft of a large section of lead from the roof of St Michael's Church in St Albans, and in July thieves stole 30 pieces of York stone from outside Ye Old Fighting Cocks pub in Abbey Mill Lane, which will cost around £25,000 to replace.

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