CHURCH bosses have today been left devastated after hundreds of New Year's ravers trashed a 500-year-old building – causing £1,000 in damages.
Essex Police closed down the Covid-flouting party but were pelted with missiles by revellers at the Grade II* listed building.
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The revellers were finally moved on but left a scene of destruction at the All Saints Church in East Horndon.
Photographs show bottles and glass strewn across the church's floor while the remnants of a bar and light show can be seen.
And members of the conservation group for the church said they were "devastated" by the damage that could cost more than £1,000.
Astrid Gillespie, a volunteer for the Friends of All Saints, said she was "just trying to get her head round the news", having found out via a Facebook post on New Year's Day.
She said: "I went up there and the police were still there packing up the equipment that they seized.
"There were hundreds of people there, it sounded like it was a ticketed event. It was a professional set-up, they'd hired Portaloos – they're still there."
The party was just one of dozens broken up by cops up and down the country as they enforced Covid restrictions as the deadly bug continues to rip across the country.
While millions stayed home to stop the spread of the deadly bug, hundreds of Brits ignored the rules and joined illegal parties in Birmingham, Essex, Manchester and London.
In Essex alone, more than £18,000 in organiser fines and fixed penalty notices were handed out overnight.
Just two weeks ago, Essex was named as a Covid hotspot with cases in Thurrock nearly trebling in seven days.
And Ms Gillespie said she had been horrified to see the church damaged, with the remnants of a bar and drugs left in the building.
She said: "They've done damage to the church, obviously it's a mess and needs to be completely cleaned out. The ground has been all churned up because they must have had vans dropping off all the equipment."
Ms Gillespie, 48, said a small window had been smashed to put in an extractor fan unit and the sound equipment had been wired into the church's fuse box.
She added that because of the building's age and heritage status, the damage was "not going to be cheap" to fix, and that the locks would have to be replaced.
"The vicar is going to organise a preliminary clean-up but it's a huge task and we're estimating £1,000 but it could well be more," she said.
"I love the place, it's such a beautiful church, and to find out it's been damaged is devastating, I'm just trying to get my head around it.
"You wake up in the new year and think 'new year, new me" and then you've got to deal with all this."
Cops break up New Year’s Eve gatherings up and down the country
DESPITE the coronavirus regulations, some people still decided to gather at parties for New Year’s Eve.
Cops were out in force across the country.
In London, 217 people were issued fixed penalty fines, while five people have been reported for consideration for a possible £10,000 fine for organising large gatherings of people
Four people were arrested for breaching Covid regulations after gathering in central London.
In Manchester, more than 100 Fixed Penalty Notices were issued for Covid breaches.
In Essex, more than £18,000 in organiser fines and fixed penalty notices were handed out overnight.
In Northamptonshire, cops were called to more than 100 reports of Covid breaches. More than 150 £200 fixed penalty notices were issued across the county.
Cleveland police received 200 calls about Covid breaches, attending a house party in Middlesbrough with more than 20 people present.
Police said the crowds at the church were dispersed before midnight and that three arrests had been made.
Assistant Chief Constable Andy Prophet said: "Unfortunately, there were others who decided to blatantly flout the coronavirus rules and regulations and, ultimately, they decided that partying was more important than protecting other people."
A 27-year-old man from Harlow was arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply class A drugs, a public order offence, and of offences under new coronavirus regulations.
A 22-year-old man from Harlow was arrested on suspicion of a public order offence, possession of cannabis, and of offences under coronavirus regulations.
A 35-year-old man from Southwark was also arrested on suspicion of possession of class A and class B drugs.
Meanwhile in London, cops were called out to 58 unlicensed music events – fining 217 people along with five others reported for possible £10,000 fines.
Crowds gathered along the capital's Southbank as well as in Kensington, West London, Nottingham and Leeds despite the NHS being left overwhelmed by patients with one doctor warning those who didn't wear a mask had "blood on their hands".
In Manchester, more than 100 fines were issued over New Year's Eve as cops were called to gatherings including a basement party and a rave in a flat.
And Lancashire described a party held at a rural property in Hyndburn, outside Blackburn, as a "shocker" after finding 80 youngsters celebrating New Year's Eve.
West Midlands Police logged more than 300 gatherings reported in Birmingham before midnight.
And in Humberside, cops broke up a house party with 40 people in Hull along with eight adults and several kids at a Cleethorpes home.
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