Police have launched an investigation into the theft of three historic brass plaques dedicated to the memory of families connected to Holy Trinity in the village of Wentworth, Rotherham.
A tribute to Thomas Wentworth, lord of the manor until his death in 1548, was pulled from the floor, while a further two were ripped from the walls.
The Churches Conservation Trust, a national charity which runs the building along with 26 other Yorkshire churches no longer used for worship, has issued a plea to the public for help to trace the ‘irreplaceable’ pieces of history.
Dawn Lancaster, of the Churches Conservation Trust, said: “Sadly our heritage is being stolen and destroyed; irreplaceable objects are being melted down or sold to unsuspecting members of the public.
“We are asking people to help us protect your history by being vigilant, and reporting suspicious behaviour.”
A local resident raised the alarm over the theft during a visit to the church, which is open to the public for visits all year round and manned by a small team of volunteer church wardens from the community.
Holy Trinity dates back to at least the 12th century, but much of the current building is from a rebuilding in 1491. It holds a key to the history of the Watson-Wentworth and Wentworth- Fitzwilliam families who lived in Wentworth Woodhouse.
The stolen haul included a memorial to Michael D’Arcy and his wife Margaret Wentworth, part of the second generation of heirs to the estate, which was fixed to the wall on a wooden mount beside the south-west window.
The church’s large memorial to William Charles, the eldest son of the 4th Earl Fitzwilliam, fitted following his death in 1835, also suffered damage during the incident. This has now been temporarily removed from the church for safekeeping along with all other brasses.
Anyone with information is asked to call South Yorkshire Police on 101, or contact Graham White at the Churches Conservation Trust on 0113 244 1689.