A FAMILY who hoisted a child on to an 800-year-old stone coffin in a museum so they could take a photograph ran away when the casket cracked. Part of the coffin, which was already in three pieces, fell from its stand and a chunk broke off.
Security camera footage from the Prittlewell Priory museum on August 4 showed the family lifting a child over a barrier so that he could reach the sarcophagus.
"The care of our collections is of paramount importance to us and this isolated incident has been upsetting for the museum's service, whose staff strive to protect Southend's heritage within our historic sites", said Claire Reed, a conservator responsible for repairing the casket.
She added: "Staff heard a thump and that was the first indication something had happened".
"It was one of those isolated, awful incidents".
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It's a very important artefact and historically unique to us as we don't have much archaeology from the priory.' The sandstone coffin was found in the grounds of the priory in 1921, complete with a skeleton which was believed to be a senior monk. The coffin will now be completely enclosed so to prevent future damage while the curatorial team assess how best to carry out the repairs.
"You can put all the risk assessments in place but you really don't expect people to try to get into the artefacts".
"The area will reopen as soon possible".
Reed said visitors should keep in mind to respect any barriers and signs in place.