A FAMILY have spoken of their 'devastation' after a memorial seat was stolen from a churchyard in Oldbury-on-Severn.

The bench, dedicated to members of Rita Tew's family, was taken from St Arilda's Church earlier this month.

The seat was placed in the churchyard in May 1999 in memory of Rita's grandparents, William and Alice Carter, and parents Florence and Dudley Fall.

This year the seat was completely renovated and a new plaque was added in memory of Margaret Fall, Rita's sister.

Rita and her four sisters, Diane, Margaret, Audrey and Marion, stayed with their grandparents in Oldbury after being evacuated from London during the Second World War.

Rita, who now lives in Northamptonshire, said: "We have a very sentimental connection with the place. It's part of our life.

"We go down there every year to tidy up."

The seat was discovered missing on July 24. Another bench in the churchyard has also been vandalised recently.

Revd. Joy Ludlow said: "It is heartbreaking to think that anyone would take this time when our church buildings cannot be opened each day as an opportunity to steal or vandalise in a space that is sacred for so many.

"It is a gift that is treasured when families do choose to place memorial benches in our churchyard for people to use, and it is absolutely unacceptable for that generosity to be so misused.

"The church continue to work with the family, seeking out information in the community, and discussing replacement at the earliest opportunity."

Rita's daughter Pauline added: "We are all devastated. It's a place close to our hearts.

"If anyone has seen or heard anything then get in touch. We would be so grateful."

Anyone with information can call 01536 203418.