THOUSANDS of pounds worth of damage was caused at historic St Mary's Church after a burglary.

Thieves forced open the large main doors, which date from before the English Civil War, to get inside the Chesham church, some time between Sunday, August 28, and Tuesday, August 30.

The two oak doors, which have bullet holes and marks dating from the 17th century conflict, will now need expert restoration work to get them back to their former glory.

PC Richard Timms, investigating the incident, said: "The church has suffered severe damage as a result of this break-in. The doors the offenders forced open predate the English Civil war and even bear bullet holes and marks sustained during the conflicts. The doors alone will cost thousands of pounds to repair and restore.

He added: "This is a very serious offence and I would urge anyone who remembers seeing or hearing anything suspicious near the church around the time of the break-in to get in touch."

Once the burglars were inside they carried out a search causing damage to precious historical items, including an oak chest believed to be several hundred years old.

Cannon Roger Salisbury said: "They came inside but obviously did not like what they saw. They opened a cupboard and pulled the door off. We have now put it back on."

This is not the first time St Mary's, in Church Lane, has been the target of criminal activity.

Cannon Salisbury said: "We have had windows broken and a couple of chairs were stolen a few years ago."

Cannon Salisbury decided not to make an announcement about the incident to his congregation because nothing was stolen.

Two other Chesham churches, Christ Church in Waterside, and St John's Church,in Ashley Green, have also been burgled in the last few weeks.

If you have any information about the incident please contact PC Timms on 08458 505505 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111