A 12TH Century church which has been left open 24 hours a day for parishioners to visit has closed its doors for the first time after a burglars used a sledgehammer to smash its safe.

The burglars, who are also believed to have targeted a nearby property overnight on Monday (January 27), also broke a glass cruet at The Church of St Wilfred at South Kilvington, near Thirsk.

They left the grade II listed building empty-handed after finding the cast iron safe contained historic registers.

Police said they had launched a forensic examination of the church.

Canon Richard Rowling, who has served the parish for ten years, said: "It is sad that they have targeted a church.

“The most annoying thing is that for many years we have managed to keep the church open without any problems, which we will now not be able to do.

“We will keep it open during the day, but lock the doors at night.

“We are not going to let it stop us in our primary purpose, which is to serve the community of South Kilvington.”

Anyone with information should call police on 101, and ask for Northallerton CID, or email CIDNorthallerton@northyorkshire.pnn.police.uk