Thieves steal path from church that inspired famous sculptor

Rev Sarah Hancox appealing for the public's help in finding Yorkshire stone paving stolen from its St Oswalds churchyard in Methley. Picture Tony Johnson
Rev Sarah Hancox appealing for the public's help in finding Yorkshire stone paving stolen from its St Oswalds churchyard in Methley. Picture Tony Johnson

A Village Vicar has asked the public for help in identifying thieves who stole Yorkshire stone paving from outside a Grade I-listed church.

The thieves struck at St Oswald’s in the village of Methley on the evening of December 18, taking part of a path as well as coping stones from a wall.

Piles of rubble were also found dumped among some of the graves and memorials in the churchyard, although it is unclear whether this was connected to the theft.

The Rev Sarah Hancox said: “It’s a shame. The timing of it was quite awful, really.

“We have a lot of visitors coming at this time of year and we had a funeral the next day.

“It was sad for the family.”

She said the community had been very upset and offered what help they could.

“Most of it will be covered by the insurance, but it’s just the time and finding the right stone, ” she said.

“It’s a Grade I-listed church so it’s got to be in keeping.

“We would quite like to get the stone back.

“If it’s still in one piece, we can use it to repair the church path.”

In August 2016 lead was stolen from the church’s roof.

Stone paving has also been taken in the past, although it has not happened for the last four or five years.

The Rev Hancox said: “Sadly it has happened before.

“A few years ago we decided to put crosses onto the stone to try to deter them.”

The church in Methley became a great fascination for a young Henry Moore, the Castleford-born sculptor.

It is known that the young Henry, who would go on to become a world-renowned artist, would visit his aunt in Methley in the early 20th century.

While there he would study and sketch the sculptures, gargoyles and memorials around and in the church, which date back to the mid 14th century and have survived restoration work throughout the centuries. Along with the Yorkshire landscape it is thought Moore’s work was also heavily influenced by his days at St Oswald’s.

Meanwhile, anyone who has been offered Yorkshire stone paving slabs marked with crosses or who has information on the thefts is urged to call West Yorkshire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.