THEFTS of historic stone and cultural objects are on the rise.

Stone thefts rose by nine per cent in 2022, according to a new report by Historic England and the National Police Chiefs’ Council.

Walls and paving slabs in Cheshire have been a particular target, with offenders often disguising themselves by wearing high-vis to steal York stone slabs from the grounds of historic properties and churches.

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.”

In December 2022, three men were brought to justice after causing more than £30,000 of damage as they stole historic York stone from Tatton Park.

A two-year investigation resulted in the arrests of Kieran Ogden, Christopher Kelly and Kevin Buckley, who were each sentenced to two years, suspended for 18 months.

On September 19, 2020, police intercepted the trio in a rental van carrying what was believed to be stolen stone from Tatton Park.

Officers then worked with Historic England and forensic scientist Dr Rosie Everett to carry out extensive research to confirm the stone was from Tatton.

READ MORE: Three men sentenced for stealing York stone from Tatton Park, costing £30k to repair

It is not just stone which has been targeted by thieves.

According to the report, cultural objects such as artwork and antiques are at risk, having been stolen from galleries, museums and stately homes.

In 2021/22, organised crime gangs stole £3.2 million worth of cultural property.

Anti-social behaviour including arson, vandalism and graffiti is also said to be a significant threat.

Meanwhile, the theft of valuable metals, mainly lead, from church roofs has fallen, with the crime dropping by 26.2 per cent between January and November 2023 compared to the same period in 2022.

Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Nolan, NPCC lead for heritage crime, said: “When metal, stone or other items are 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.”