Dereham church congregation angered by antisocial behaviour, vandalism and litter

St Nicholas church in Dereham is having a problem with rubbish in the church yard - David Webster wi

St Nicholas church in Dereham is having a problem with rubbish in the church yard - David Webster with a collection of rubbish found. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

Members of a church congregation in Dereham have voiced their anger at the vandalism, graffiti and rubbish which have marred the sacred site during the summer.

St Nicholas' Church was first attacked in June, when vandals desecrated the well which celebrates the legend of St Withburga, the town's patron saint.

Since then, the problems have continued 'relentlessly' according to Gordon Barker, who is the editor of the church newsletter.

He said: 'The area around the west door and adjacent churchyard is being populated by groups of young people who have sadly misused this area of consecrated ground with foul language – which is too readily audible within the building – urinating against the church wall, daubing graffiti, scaling walls and ledges as well as creating significant amounts of variegated rubbish.

'Can you imagine how embarrassed our welcomers are when visitors arrive to view our church and well? St Nicholas attracts many visitors, some of them pilgrims, from home and overseas and the thoughtless behaviour of this minority significantly endangers the impression and atmosphere of quiet prayerfulness which we wish to project.'

Mr Barker said the problems had been happening every day during the school summer holidays, with groups of up to 20 young people congregating in the church yard.

'The problem is the nuisance and the disrespect they cause, and then there's the business of the foul language and the urinating,' he said. 'Most of our welcomers are elderly people and some have gone round to talk to them, and have been given a volley of abuse.

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'It is just total disrespect, and they have had to put up with it for two months. It is such a shame, because the church yard is so nicely looked after by the town council and it is a tragedy that a church that is nearly 1,000 years old is being besmirched by urine and graffiti.'

Insp Jon Papworth, local policing commander for Dereham, said: 'Our officers are committed to reducing anti-social behaviour in the town and will not tolerate people committing acts which cause a nuisance or distress to either individuals, or the wider community. I would encourage anyone who witnesses any such behaviour to contact police on 999 if it is in progress, or on 101 if after the event.'

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