British police are hunting for thieves who broke into a castle in southern England and made off with “irreplaceable” artifacts, including gold and silver items worth more than £1 million ($1.4 million).
Burglar alarms alerted staff at Arundel Castle to a break in on Friday night at 10.30 p.m. (5.30 p.m. ET), and items of “great historical significance” were stolen by force from a display cabinet, according to a statement from Sussex Police published Sunday.
Among the stolen artifacts were coronation cups and the gold rosary beads carried by Mary, Queen of Scots when she was executed in 1587 by order of her English cousin, Queen Elizabeth I. Police said the rosary beads are an “irreplaceable” piece of national heritage.
“The stolen items have significant monetary value, but as unique artefacts of the Duke of Norfolk’s collection have immeasurably greater and priceless historical importance,” said a spokesman for Arundel Castle Trustees in the statement.
“We therefore urge anyone with information to come forward to the police to assist them in returning these treasures back where they belong.”
Police are investigating an abandoned vehicle found on fire in a nearby village shortly after the burglary.
Detective Constable Molly O’Malley of Chichester’s Criminal Investigation Department appealed to members of the public to come forward if they saw any suspicious activity around the castle on Friday evening.
“The castle only re-opened to visitors on Tuesday 18 May so if you were visiting during the past few days do you on reflection recall anyone behaving at all suspiciously?,” said O’Malley in the statement.
Arundel Castle was built at the end of the 11th century by Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Arundel, according to the castle website.
It was badly damaged in two sieges during the English Civil War in the mid-17th century, and repairs weren’t made until about 1718.
A full restoration project was completed in 1900 by Henry, 15th Duke of Norfolk (1847-1917), who installed electric light and central heating.
Coronavirus lockdown restrictions eased further in England last week, with tourist attractions such as stately homes and museums reopening to visitors for the first time in months.
CNN’s Amy Woodyatt contributed to this report.