An iconic church has been broken into and is believed to have been flooded inside.

It is understood that police were called to Christ Church in Maryport overnight last night.

Neighbours said they had been told that pipes had been pulled from the wall and the harbour church, which closed several years ago, is full of water.

The landmark building has been the subject of paintings by renowned artists including Percy Kelly, LS Lowry and Sheila Fell.

It was closed because of spiralling costs and dwindling congregations.

Yesterday, just hours before the damage was reported, Graeme Wilson, who is overseeing a multi-million-pound development plan for the town, identified Christ Church as one of the town buildings which deserved to be saved.

A neighbour, who did not want to be named, said: “I am told they kicked the back door in and there were cards thrown around the place.

"My neighbours said someone returned later and there was lead stolen off the roof and pipes pulled from the wall.”

Following its closure, the church was bought by a man in London who did not reveal his plans for it.

It is now rumoured to belong to someone in Manchester.

Cumbria police could not be contacted for comment about the break in.