Bishop Robert re-dedicated stolen panels
Bishop Robert has re-dedicated historic panels stolen from Torbryan church four years ago after they were recovered by police. The panels have now been restored and replaced. The re-dedication service was led by Bishop Robert and Rev Peter Ashman, Rector of the Beacon Parishes Mission Community.
The decorative rood screens were ripped out and stolen from Holy Trinity church in Torbryan, near Totnes, in August 2013. The panels, bearing paintings of St Victor of Marseilles and St Margaret of Antioch are considered by historians of national importance. They were recovered two years later by the Metropolitan police’s art and antiquities unit after being spotted in an online sale.
The panels were in a fragile state. It turned out that thieves were not the only danger to the pieces: deathwatch beetles had been boring their way into the wood, making the edges of the panels crumble. However, thanks to donations totalling £7,000, the panels were painstakingly restored by two experts. One focused on shoring up the damage; the other worked on restoring the paintwork.
The Rev Peter Ashman, whose parish includes Torbryan, said local people were delighted to have the panels back. “They are valuable both historically and in financial terms,” he said. “They are also part of our heritage. There are hundreds of churches around the country that are there for prayer or for quiet time but are also simply at the centre of village communities”.
Now, after months of restoration, they are back where they belong. The vast majority of the rood screen’s 44 painted panels survive and even its three pairs of entrance gates are all intact.
Colin Shearer (Director of the West Region Churches Conservation Trust) also attended the service. Colin Shearer leads a team dedicated to sustaining churches and fulfilling their potential for community use and as heritage visitor attractions with the support of volunteers and partner organisations.