Church raises £9000 after it was ‘trashed’ in illegal New Year’s Eve rave

2 January 2021, 11:08 | Updated: 3 January 2021, 06:59

By Joe Cook

A 15th Century church in Essex has crowdfunded over £9000 in less than 24 hours after their historic building was “trashed” during an illegal New Year’s Eve rave.

Essex Police say “hundreds of people” attended the New Year’s Eve rave at All Saints East Horndon, with party-goers throwing objects and threatening officers as they worked to break up the party.

The illegal gathering caused thousands of pounds worth of damage to the Grade II* listed church, with walls damaged and a window broken to be used for an air extraction system.

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The party was dispersed before midnight and equipment was seized, police say. Three arrests were made.

Father Paul Hamilton, vicar at the church, told LBC drugs and bottles were left “all over the place”, adding: “the place stinks of drugs”.

Essex Police say “hundreds of people” attended the New Year’s Eve rave at All Saints East Horndon.
Essex Police say “hundreds of people” attended the New Year’s Eve rave at All Saints East Horndon. Picture: Essex Police

“None of us are angels and we have all pushed the boundaries a little bit in our time, but this really was very unsafe and it was a very disrespectful way to use a church that is historically of phenomenal interest,” he added.

“There are so many historic figures buried there, we have got a former speaker of the House of Commons buried there, and drugs and paraphernalia were all over their graves.”

Since word of the damage spread, hundreds of people have donated money to a crowdfunder set up by the church community, with £9000 raised in just 20 hours.

Astrid Gillespie, who setup the donation page on behalf of Friends of All Saints, told LBC she was "absolutely blown away".

"I thought we would struggle to get to a thousands, which was our initial target... but then we reached that goal within an hour!

"Probably a thousand would not have covered the damage but I didn't want to be too greedy. But then it just took off."

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Father Hamilton said the party was attended by over 300 people, despite Covid cases surging in Essex.
Father Hamilton said the party was attended by over 300 people, despite Covid cases surging in Essex. Picture: Essex Police
Police seized a sound system that had been wired into the church's fuse box.
Police seized a sound system that had been wired into the church's fuse box. Picture: Essex Police

Father Hamilton also described the response as “phenomenal”, explained that the money would allow the church to “improve security and make it more accessible to the public”.

Chana James, from the Churches Conservation Trust, which manages the All Saints, told LBC: “Obviously we were very upset about what happened, but it just showed that these buildings are loved by the local community.

"I think that is probably what people thought when they had their party there, that it is unloved and uncared for, but that is simply not the case."

She added: "We are delighted for all the money to be used on the church, we weren't expecting this much to be raised and of course it will all go towards the church.”

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People across the UK had been asked to ring in the new year at home, as cases of coronavirus surge across the country.

Essex is facing some of the highest rates of Covid-19, with hospitals in the county declaring a “major incident” on 30 December, as the number of patients threatens to overwhelm the NHS.

Herongate, Ingrave and West Horndon, where the All Saints church is located, recorded 1,271 cases per 100,000 people in the week up to 27 December, far above the national average.

Father Hamilton told LBC: “There were at least 300 people in there and where we are in Brentwood the infection has spiked and we are concerned first of all for the safety of those who were there.”

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In a statement, Assistant Chief Constable of Essex Police, Andy Prophet said: “I’d like to firstly thank everyone across Essex who stayed at home and did the right thing last night.

“Unfortunately, there were others who decided to blatantly flout the coronavirus rules and regulations and, ultimately, they decided that partying was more important than protecting other people.”

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Despite the damage to the building, Father Hamilton said he would welcome back those who attended the illegal rave “at any time”.

“If people want to come and discover the real meaning of what a church is about they are very welcome to come at any time and I’m sure they will find it a great deal more fulfilling than that which went on last night.

“We offer forgiveness to anybody that did something like this and now we are just grateful for the community response to help put it right.”