Police have been patrolling an historic graveyard closely linked to the Brontës after thieves desecrated it, stealing three ancient headstones that have been there for 200 years.
The damage to the Old Bell Chapel, also known as the Brontë Bell Chapel, Bradford, was discovered two weeks ago with police branding the theft “despicable”.
Up to 30 metres of Yorkshire stone was also stolen from a pathway in the graveyard next to the chapel – opposite St James’ church – where Patrick Brontë, father of the famed novelists, was minister between 1815 and 1820 before moving to nearby Haworth as rector.
Police patrolled the chapel after fears were raised that the thieves would return for more slabs they had already removed and stacked in the cemetery.
West Yorkshire police said officers would continue to pay special attention to the site during regular patrols.
Ann Dinsdale, acting director of Brontë society, condemned the thefts and said numerous sites connected to the family had been targeted in recent years, including Haworth church which had had lead stripped from its roof.
She said: “People need to be vigilant because when it’s gone, it is gone. I just don’t know how you go about educating people that this is part of their heritage they are destroying.”
One of the headstones stolen was next to the grave of famed author Joseph Lister, who was a friend of Lord Fairfax and was involved in the Siege of Bradford in the English Civil War in 1642.
The church is currently trying to establish the ownership of the stolen headstones. And police are appealing for information about the thefts.