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A large piece of the relic was chipped off when parent reportedly asked child to pose inside it for a picture.

Composite of undated handout photos issued by Southend-on-Sea Borough Council of an 800-year-old coffin before (top) and after (bottom) it was damaged when a family lifted a child over a barrier at Prittlewell Priory Museum in Southend, Essex, and into it for a photograph.

The coffin, which was already in three parts was damaged when a family lifted a child over the barrier at a museum exhibition and place them inside the coffin for a photograph. The individuals responsible for causing the accident were caught by CCTV cameras at the exhibition belonging to Prittlewell Priory Museum in Southend, Essex. However, despite causing the damage and being caught on camera doing so, they fled the scene without reporting the incident, which took place on August 4th.

Made from Sandstone, the coffin was discovered within the grounds of the priory in 1921 with human remains inside it, believed to belong to a monk.

Restorer Claire Reed, who has been called in to repair the damaged relic, told PA: “The care of our collections is of paramount importance to us and this isolated incident has been upsetting for the museums service, whose staff strive to protect Southend’s heritage for the benefit of our visitors and enrichment of their experience within our historic sites.”

The cost of repairing the coffin is reported to be “negligible” according to Ann Holland, executive councillor for culture at Southend-on-Sea borough council. A decision will be taken as to how to redisplay the coffin when the exhibition at the museum reopens, but Holland believes the coffin may have to be fully enclosed to prevent future incidents.

“In the meantime we would like to remind all visitors that they should observe and respect any barriers and signs in place that are there to protect our important heritage and history,” she said.

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