An iconic "fishermen's church" has been damaged in an act of theft and vandalism which has been described as abhorrent.

Maryport chairman Peter Kendall said he was disgusted at the damage that was done to the town's harbourside church, Christ Church.

The break in occurred between January 11 and 15. As well as stealing lead there was damage caused to pipes, according to a police spokeswoman who said United Utilities had to be called out to turn off water which was causing damage inside the church.

Mr Kendall said the perpetrators showed a total lack of respect for history, authority and even the dignity.

"Although the church was no longer a consecrated building, after being closed for worship, it was still a huge part of the town.

"It's been in paintings, on postcards and is a major part of our harbour scene. But even more than that, it was the fishermen's church and a place where visiting sailors would come. It is very dear to us."

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He added that, in the end, it would be Maryport ratepayers who would have to pay for the cost of United Utilities coming out if no owner could be found.

"Police were at the church from about 11am on Tuesday until after 7pm when they could have been doing something else."

He also called on the owners to do something with the church.

Christ Church was sold when it was closed. Since then it has had at least three owners. It is believed that is owned by someone in Manchester now.

Police have asked anyone who witnessed or heard anything, or anyone with information, should call 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.