800-year-old coffin damaged by tourists taking a photo

An 800-year-old coffin has been damaged by a family trying to take a photo.

The coffin in Prittlewell Priory Museum in Southend, was damaged when a family placed a child over the barrier and into the coffin, ‘presumably for a photo’.

A small part of the coffin broke when the child walked over the coffin, knocking it off its stand.

The coffin has always been in three pieces (it was excavated that way), but is displayed to appear together.

The crack in the centre and the piece missing on the left of the photo has always been there since it has been displayed, the new damage is to the right of centre (in the pic).

Fortunately the museum have an in-house conservator who will carry out the careful repair using specialist adhesives.

Cllr Ann Holland, Executive Councillor for Culture, says: “The museums conservator has assessed the damage to the coffin and will carry out the repair using materials and techniques suited to the object. Fortunately we predict the costs will be negligible. To prevent future damage we also now feel that the coffin needs to be completely enclosed and the Curatorial Team are assessing how this can best be done.

“The area will reopen as soon possible. 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.”

Claire Reed, Conservator for the Council’s museums and galleries service, says: “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.

“My priority as museums conservator, is to carefully carry out the treatment needed to restore this significant artefact so it can continue to be part of the fascinating story of Prittlewell Priory.”