Calls to protect one of Newham's 'most important' buildings from thieves and vandals
- Credit: Steve Poston
One of the "most important buildings" in Newham is at risk and needs protecting.
That's the message from the vicar of St Mary Magdalene's Church in East Ham, which has been targeted by thieves, arsonists and vandals.
An online petition calling for overnight security during the summer has also been signed more than 1,000 times.
Revd Quintin Peppiatt said: "It's a Grade I-listed building. It's one of the most important buildings in Newham.
"It's a shame if the borough doesn't have appropriate protections around this historic asset."
A Newham Council spokesperson said: "Vandalism in our borough’s public spaces is unacceptable.
"We have escalated the issue to the Metropolitan Police and are working closely with them and residents to secure the area."
Thieves stripped lead from the roof in April, arsonists destroyed a wooden porch in 2014 and there have been repeated attempts to break into the Norman church, which has welcomed worshippers since 1130.
Nigel McCollum, who sits on the church committee, said he fears priceless artefacts will be stolen if criminals eventually get in.
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After the churchyard was officially closed for burials in 1974, much of it became a wilderness until its value for wildlife was recognised in the late 1970s.
East Ham Nature Reserve, run by Newham Council, was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1983.
But while the growth immediately around the church is kept in check, parts of the reserve are overgrown and providing cover for lawbreakers, as well as acting as a magnet for antisocial behaviour, according to the church's leaders.
Mr McCollum said: "When you listen to the voices of local people, it's the indignity of not being able to visit the graves. They've let it get into a terrible state."
The site includes historic tombstones to victims of the Titanic, East Ham's first schoolmaster and a man killed in a hot air balloon accident at Crystal Palace.
Mr McCollum said: "This is the first building in East Ham and the resting place of generations of East Hammers."
Revd Peppiatt, who is also a councillor for East Ham South ward, said: "If the nature reserve was secure, we could maintain our own security."