Burglars at Pendock Old Church have wrecked an organ which was rumoured to have been played by the great composer, Sir Edward Elgar.

Pipes and other parts were removed in the raid, which has been described as a "rampage," and the instrument will require extensive and costly restoration if it is to be heard again.

The Churches Conservation Trust has condemned the incident for causing "a devastating loss to both the local community and to our national heritage".

The organ, which was used and enjoyed for recitals in the church, was last restored in 1978 and has been regularly maintained since.

Historic monuments were also damaged during the raid.

Meriel O’Dowd, Conservation Projects Manager at Churches Conservation Trust says: “We were saddened to discover the brutal damage to this ancient and beautiful church. What made it all the more upsetting was the unnecessary destruction to the organ and monuments which are so significant to our history and of national importance and will cost tens of thousands of pounds to repair.”

Pendock Old Church is the latest victim of serious heritage crime in the country, according to the Churches Conservation Trust, the national charity charged with saving historic churches at risk.

Thieves hacked the empty wall safe out of the historic walls of the church, which are nearly 900 years old.

As well as damaging the organ, the thieves also went on a rampage inside the church where they unsuccessfully attempted to remove a bronze memorial plaque dedicated to Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, former Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and President of the Royal Society.

The wall surrounding the memorial has been damaged and a wooden panel beneath was stolen.

It was also discovered that a ladder was placed in the tower up to the belfry.

Although it is not believed that any bells were stolen, further investigations are underway to determine whether any damage has been caused to the bells or their fixtures.

The damage was discovered by a local member of the community on Friday October 18 who then reported the heritage crime to West Mercia Police and to the Churches Conservation Trust who care for the church.

It is not known precisely when the raid took place.

But the church was found to be in good order during an inspection which had taken place earlier in October.

Pendock Church is Saxon in origin, although the present church is mainly Norman. Elgar had links with the area. His wife, Alice, was a friend of the then Rector of Pendock, W.S. Symonds.

Anyone with any information about the incident at the church is urged to contact West Mercia Police with incident number 551/s/181019.