THE vicar of a rural church has said she is deeply shocked after it was targeted by thieves who stole thousands of pounds of antique furniture.

Burglars entered All Saints Church, in Betts Lane, Nazeing making off with a 17th century carved oak chest worth more than £4,000 and a Pembroke oak table worth around £800.

They also stole two solid silver or crystal candlesticks, a patern chalice, a pyx and two cruets. These items were at least a hundred years old and worth over £1,000.

The thieves lay in wait for vicar Catherine Pennington to leave the church before sneaking in.

She said: “I find it surprising and deeply shocking. I wasn't away for many hours but they had a three hour opening to come in.

“We are really sad. It's such a beautiful chest. It's been in the church for such a long time. It had the nativity costumes in it and they were strewn to one side. It's sad and disappointing to see the church treated that way.”

The Guardian reported in April this year on a similar theft of valuables from St Mary's Church, in Sheering.

The items stolen, including 14th-century ornate carvings, candlesticks, and an antique wooden table have yet to be recovered.

Rev Pennington thinks the thieves must be a gang who make money from selling on antiques furniture.

She said: “They are worth money and that's why they've been stolen. I suppose it's of interest to people selling on that sort of antique. This church was targeted some years ago by theft.”

The burglary at All Saints took place between 12pm and 3.45pm on Monday, October 4.

Anyone with information should contact PC Daniel Stevens on at Epping police station on 0300 333 4444 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.