Thieves broke into a Skipton church causing thousands of pounds of damage to an ancient stained glass window.

The offenders forced a section of the window at Holy Trinity Church to get to the collection box, which was bolted to the floor.

But because it had only recently been emptied, the box contained just a £5 float.

The thieves, who broke in after the church was locked up for the day at 5pm on Saturday, also trampled over the altar and caused damage to the reredos screen.

Churchwarden Jill Wright said the damage was discovered when her husband, Chris, went to open up the church at 7.30am on Sunday.

She said the stained glass window was made in Belgium in 1870 and consisted of three panels, one of which had been broken.

“We’ve no idea how much it will cost to repair it, but it will certainly be a lot. There are people who can repair it, but it will be very, very difficult as it is a specialised job,” she said.

The thieves managed to break through protective glass on the outside of the window to get in.

She added: “We think they must have come into the church during the day to look around. They climbed over the altar and crawled over the reredos, breaking bits off it.

“We think they were probably cross that there was only a small amount of money in the collection box as they ripped it off the floor. It’s an oak safe bolted to the floor, so it would have taken some moving.”

Sadly for the church, any money that it will have raised in the past few months and which would have been put towards the hospitality of visitors, will now have to go on making repairs.

“We are insured, but this will bump up our premiums. We had raised the best part of £3,000, it is heartbreaking in the extreme,” she said.

The window is now safely boarded up and the collection box being repaired.

PC Adam Steventon, of Skipton Police, described it as an “horrendous crime”, adding: “We hope someone saw something and would urge them to get in contact.”

Anyone with information can call PC Steventon at Skipton Police Station on 101.