SOUTHEND Council has confirmed a historic monk’s coffin will be enclosed in protective glass case to protect it from further damage.

The 800-year-old coffin was damaged when a family lifted a child over the barrier and into the case for a photograph. The stone sarcophagus, which was already in three pieces, fell from its stand causing another chunk to come off it.

Ann Holland, councillor responsible for culture, tourism and the economy said: “To prevent future damage we now feel that the coffin needs to be completely enclosed and the curatorial team is assessing how this can best be done.

“The area will reopen. 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.”

The museum CCTV is said to have captured the incident but the family left the scene without reporting it to staff.

It was initially thought the damage would cost a lot repair due to the specialist materials required for the job. However, the work will be done in-house and is expected to cost less than £100.

Mrs Holland added: “We will be having it fixed in-house so we’re hoping it will cost around £100, maybe just under, for all the repairs.

“We know someone was there, they had been seen walking out and we just wanted to urge them to come forward. It’s done now and we’re moving forward with the repairs but it’s just nice to think that people wouldn’t just run away from something like that.”

Clair Reed, museum conservator, said “Staff heard a thump and realised something had happened. It was just one of those isolated, terrible incidents.

“We don’t have much archaeology left from the priory and this is an important artefact and historically unique to us. Fortunately it is repairable.

“We will have to completely enclose it in the future. No matter what risk assessments you put in place you, we would never have expected someone to try and gain entrance to the artefact.”

The sandstone coffin was found in the grounds of the priory in 1921 complete with a skeleton which could have been a senior monk.