THE theft of historic stone is on the rise across the country, with incidents reported recently in Warrington.

One involved ‘organised criminals’ taking sections of a historic sandstone wall from Park Lane, near to Walton Hall and Gardens and Walton Hall Golf Club.

A resident was left ‘speechless’ after discovering sections of the wall were missing on their walk, and informed Cheshire Police.

The resident said: “Having lived in the area for 20 years, and with the wall having stood for probably hundreds of years, I am utterly speechless.

“What possesses some people to simply come along and take a wall is beyond me.

“These slabs are huge and heavy. Wherever they turn up, it will be evident that they have been stolen and someone will know something.”

Police confirmed that officers were aware of the missing blocks, and have appealed for anyone with any information to come forward.

The theft was also reported to Warrington South MP Andy Carter who said: “I am very sad to see this desecration of our local heritage.

"Unfortunately, it seems that there has been a spate of these types of thefts occurring around Cheshire.

"It is very sad and shows the total disregard these people have for these types of structures.

Stone was stolen from a historic wall at Walton Hall

Stone was stolen from a historic wall at Walton Hall

"It looks evident that these are not just opportunistic thugs, but organised criminals.”

This is backed up by a recent report by Historic England that says stone thefts rose by nine per cent in 2022.

Offenders often disguise themselves by wearing high-visibility jackets to steal stone slabs from the grounds of historic properties and church paths.

The report says organised crime gangs plot burglaries from the sites, with cultural property worth £3.2million stolen in 2021/22.

Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England, said: “Heritage and cultural property crime robs us of our collective history.

“This research marks the next stage in our commitment to tackle such crime.

“More effective crime recording across all police forces in the UK, including a heritage marker to highlight protected sites and cultural property crime, would help us to understand trends better and to tackle serious organised crime and anti-social behaviour.”

Assistant chief constable Rachel Nolan, of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, added: “When stone is stolen from our historic buildings and cultural sites, it impacts the communities who enjoy those spaces.

“We welcome any research into this area of criminality which helps us to better understand the issue, and therefore tailor our response to pursue offenders and deter any future opportunists.

“We are committed to tackling this issue, and our heritage crime officers across the country will continue to work with Historic England and other partners to reduce offending, and educate the wider public about the long-lasting damage heritage crime can have.”