A CONGREGATION has been left “horrified” after thieves stole valuable 100-year-old paving stones from Bolton Parish Church.

Twenty-five slabs of York paving stone have been ripped up from the path leading to the church.

The theft happened between 5pm last Wednesday and 11.30am on Thursday.

The theft of the stones, which can fetch up to £90 per square yard at reclaimers, has caused outrage amongst members of the congregation.

The vicar of Bolton, the Rev Matthew Thompson, said: “It is very unfortunate and frustrating this has happened because it is such a beautiful spot.

“The church and the yard is for the whole community and not just for our benefit.

“For it to be disfigured in that way is very frustrating. It will cost a great deal to make it safe and put it right.

“The stones are worth quite a lot of money and whoever did it has left quite a mess. We had to take swift action to make the area safe and fill in the space with gravel with the help of Bolton Council.”

The church was forced to install a roof alarm six months ago following a spate of lead thefts.

It is hoped the culprits of the latest theft, which took place between 5pm on Wednesday and 11.30am on Thursday, will be caught on CCTV footage from camera’s either on Silverwell Street, Church Gate or the system covering the church yard.

Cllr John Walsh, deputy church warden, said: “York paving stones are highly sought after and valuable. Everyone is horrified someone could commit this crime.

“The path forms a historic setting for one of the most beautiful buildings in the town. Those stones are more than 100 years old and we will never be able to put back that what was taken away.”

The theft comes just over a month after 400-year-old paving stones were stolen from grade II listed Haulgh Hall in Hilden Street. The historic building is thought to be the oldest in Bolton.

Bolton Civic Trust chairman, Brian Tetlow, said he has also fallen victim to paving stone thieves.

Mr Tetlow added: “It can be quite an expensive operation to source authentic flags from reclaimers, which is why they are stolen.

“I have had some stolen myself four times over the years. It is happening all over the place unfortunately and it is very sad that it is happening to historic buildings in Bolton.”

A police spokesperson said: “Our inquiries into this incident are ongoing.”