THIEVES smashed their way into a historic church, caused £1000 worth of damage, and even urinated by the altar.

St Peter's Church in Upper Arley was the target of "destructive vandalism" on December 23, with sentimental handbells and a donation box also being stolen.

The church posted about the incident on Facebook. A spokesperson for the church said: "The damage will cost at least £1000 to put right.

"It would appear that somebody decided to relieve themselves by the altar during this unwelcome visit. At the same time Arley Arboretum was trashed.

"This was destructive vandalism with no thought to the folks who work hard for both organisations to provide amenities for the community.

"The thieves got into the bell tower kicking in one door and smashing down another. They have stolen the hand bells which will not only be hard to replace but of great sentimental value.

"Many of those who grew up in the village will remember being taught to play them at school by Margaret Whatmore.

"Also some bell ropes,the belfry clock and the donations box which thankfully did not contain much were taken."

Those with information have been urged to get in touch with the church, the Arboretum or the police.