It will be a very happy Christmas after all at St Luke’s Church, Linch, where miraculously most of the church silver stolen earlier this year has been recovered.
Most precious is the 300-year-old silver chalice presented to Linch by the Bishop of Chichester in 1705 which is traditionally used for communion on Christmas morning.
Churchwarden David King said: “It’s really fantastic to have all these treasures returned. It will give the Christmas communion service even more meaning this year when we use the chalice.”
It was one of the few items which was unharmed when it was returned to Mr King and fellow church warden Lea Grocott after being recovered by Hampshire police at a house in Alton, Hampshire.
Most of the other pieces were badly tarnished and some dented. They have all now been sent to a specialist for refurbishment. But there are still two pieces of the church silver collection missing and, said Mr King, police were continuing their investigation to try to recover them.
Thieves ripped the safe off the wall in the vestry at the church in August and stole 20 pieces of antique silver worth thousands of pounds.
They included the 300-year-old chalice used only on special occasions and two which were in constant use at Sunday services. The thieves also stole several sold-silver communion plates as well as silver collecting plates and flagons.
Some of the silver came from Treyford Church which was demolished many years ago and some from Iping March Church which was demolished in the l980s after it fell into disrepair.
“It was all insured for £25,000, but in historic terms it is priceless and we all felt terrible when it was stolen,” said Mr King.
“To have most of it returned is really wonderful and will make for an especially happy Christmas for us all.”