Vandals strike church that got in their way
A vandal attack on one of Somerset's most famous churches, in which windows were smashed, an altar and a lectern overturned and display cabinets damaged, has outraged people in Taunton.
A pole supporting a young tree in the grounds of 700-year-old St Mary Magdalene church is also thought to have been wrenched out and used to smash some of the windows.
The attack, at 3.40am on Saturday, came less than two weeks after hundreds gathered inside and outside the town centre building for the funeral of heroic young Corporal Tom Gaden, 24.
Cpl Gaden, of 1st Battalion The Rifles, died with two colleagues – Lance Cpl Paul Upton and Rifleman Jamie Gunn – when their Land Rover was hit by an explosive device while on patrol in Afghanistan.
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The vicar of St Mary Magdalene, the Rev Richard Corke, raised the alarm after hearing noises at the church, and went into find the floor strewn with shattered glass, a table altar overturned and the great brass eagle lectern lying on its side.
A cross is also understood to have been taken from the church and may have been used to damage cars parked nearby. It has since been recovered.
The damaged windows all have plain glass. The church's superb stained glass windows, which include fragments from medieval times, are protected on the outside by wire mesh.
St Mary Magdalene is particularly well-known for its finely carved tower, described by Simon Jenkins in his book England's Thousand Best Churches, as "the finest in England. It makes its peace with the sky not just with a coronet but with the entire crown jewels cast in red-brown stone."
Avon and Somerset police have arrested two local men, aged 19 and 20. Both were released on police bail while the cost of the damage is assessed.
Investigating officer PC Kathy Heyns said: "This particular incident directly affects a large range of people in the community. Without doubt, if the member of the public had not supported their community by phoning the police, then this investigation would have been significantly more difficult."
Church warden Jean Hall said: "It's extremely distressing. A lot of damage has been done to our windows, but fortunately not the stained glass ones.
"They broke into the church through one of the windows which was above the book stall and the stall was damaged as well.
"I don't think they had a particular down on our church, we are just in the way between the town centre and the car park."
PC Heyns said: "We recognise this incident has an impact on the local congregation, so officers will be working closely with the vicar to offer support."