The Church of England has moved millions of pounds worth of valuables to the Tower of London in order to protect them should mass looting in London occur during the coronavirus lockdown.
Over the past few weeks, some 400 churches across London have secretly moved items referred to as the ‘church plate’ to the Tower of London and other secure locations. The items moved to the Tower include paintings, art, artefacts, and “rare and unusual” silver.
Churches throughout the country have been closed during the coronavirus pandemic, prompting officials to move the valuables to “ensure their safety, away from our churches, while church buildings remain closed”.
“The focus of the operation has about preserving and protecting heritage, as London’s priests and churches act as stewards of so much of the capital’s rich history,” a Diocese of London spokesman told The Telegraph.
“Not all of the items could be fully valued, because some are so rare and unusual. Even London’s priests do not know the exact locations where items from their churches are being housed for safe-keeping. The authorities, included the police, were informed about the operation and the Diocese ensured that the current social-distancing measures were maintained,” the spokesman added.
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The church plate will be stored in the Tower of London for the duration of the coronavirus lockdown alongside the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom, which have been stored in the fortress since 1661.
The Tower of London has been used in the past during times of crisis to safeguard valuable items. The practice, which dates back to medieval times, was also activated during both World Wars.
A spokesman for the Tower of London said: “We are very happy to look after the church plate during the lockdown.”
The church plate of St Paul’s Cathedral has not been moved as the cathedral has kept its round-the-clock security in place during the lockdown.
Though crime has fallen by 21 per cent during the lockdown, police have warned that criminals have been taking to stealing cars and other sources of metal to sell as scrap.
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