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Historic Walsall church damaged after thief 'uses blowtorch' in break-in attempt

An historic Black Country church suffered thousands of pounds of damage after a would-be burglar tried to "use a blowtorch" to break through the thick wooden doors.

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The doors have been part of the church since 1959

Wardens from St Matthew’s Church in Walsall are appealing for witnesses to the incident after warden John Edlin arrived at the 13th century building yesterday morning to find the doors smouldering.

He said he unlocked them and went inside to find the church “filled with smoke”.

Mr Edlin said: “I went in early, about 8am, to meet some roofers who were going to start some work and when I unlocked the door I found the place filled with smoke. So I shut them again and went to find where the fire was coming from. The damage was obviously mainly on the church doors.

St Matthew's Church, Walsall

“Luckily I was able to put out the small flames with some water but had it been 15 minutes longer I reckon there could have been some serious damage.

“We’re absolutely certain the thief tried to use a blowtorch on the door – you can’t just use a match to set fire to thick oak doors, and there was no petrol smell.”

West Midlands Police are now investigating the break-in attempt.


Patti Lane, another warden said she was “disappointed” someone could do this to a place of worship.

She said: “I’m just very sad about this and disappointed that someone could do this to a place of faith and worship.

“It’s a very historic, grade-two listed building and the doors have been in place since 1959 when they were dedicated to a former Mayor of Walsall, Frank Harrison.

“People always come and tell me that they’ve lived in this town all their lives and still find amazement in the church, so it’s all very disappointing to see this happen.”

Assistant church warden John Edlin examines the damage on the doors at St Matthews Church

Mrs Lane said the church had also been full of smoke when the fire was put out and was still circling around the building during the day.

She also said there was no clear indication of how much it would cost to replace the doors – but Mr Edlin said it could be in the thousands.

Mrs Lane added: “With the pandemic and everything else, there hasn’t been as much money coming into the church as before, so this sort of thing will be a big drain on our limited resources.

“We would just like to know why and who did this, so we have spoken to the police and given them as much information as we can concerning this.”

A spokesman for West Midlands Police said: "We were called to reports of a wooden door being set alight at St Matthews Church, St Matthews Close, Walsall at about 8.40am on Tuesday, September 1.

"The fire had been extinguished by a staff member. The door was damaged but no one had got inside the church.

"Our forensics officers have examined the scene and we are appealing for anyone with information about the incident to get in touch."

Anyone with information is encouraged to get in touch quoting crime number 20WS/209088R/20, via Live Chat at, from 8am to midnight, or call 101 anytime. To remain anonymous call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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