Fifty years worth of “irreplaceable” handwritten church records, stolen from a Harborough district church, have turned up nearly three months later - next to a bin on a nature reserve near Peterborough.
The birth, marriage and death records, dating from the 1960s to the present day, were in a safe that was stolen from St Leonard’s Church, Misterton in April.
The books were discovered last week 60 miles away - in a bag near a bin at Eye Nature Reserve in the village of Eye, near Peterborough.
Delighted St Leonard’s church warden Rebekah Jeffery-Cooper, whose own marriage is recorded in the books, said: “I’m ecstatic.
“I screamed and jumped up and down when I heard the news.
“I’m a positive person, but after all this time I was beginning to give up on seeing our record books again.”
The church records had been in a large safe which was stolen from St Leonard’s church, Misterton - a hamlet off the A4304 near Lutterworth - on the night of April 14/15.
The safe also contained the church’s silver plate - which has not been found. The thieves also took copper from the church roof.
And the following week they were back again - this time stealing the church’s organ pipes.
Repairing the roof will cost at least £9,000. Replacing the organ pipes will cost £22,500. Insurance will not cover all the cost.
“We’ve been praying for the church and also for the Parachial Church Council in what has been a difficult time for us” said Rebekah.
“But the thefts have brought the community closer together. People are outraged that people can come into our church and take it apart.”
The church serves both the hamlet of Misterton and the village of Walcote, on the A4304.
It could also be the church for the new, proposed East Lutterworth development.
The church record books were collected at the weekend from a worker at Amey Waste Management in Peterborough.
The books were damp but legible.
A worker had discovered them while emptying the bins at the nature reserve.
Church records for a church in Doncaster were also dumped there.
Anyone wishing to donate money to the church can post cheques, payable to Misterton PCC, to St Leonards c/o Rebekah Jeffery -Cooper 64 Orchard Road, Lutterworth, LE17 4DA.