A Wiltshire church’s festive charity drive has been dealt a blow after two collection pots were stolen in broad daylight.

St Johns Church in Devizes was targeted by a suspected thief, who stole a significant sum of charity donations while the building was open to the public on Thursday, November 16.

It is estimated around £50 worth of donations, which had been raised by the Omnes ad Unum group to fund their annual Christmas Tree Festival, were taken during the alleged theft.

Mike Slade, of Omnes, revealed that while this year’s festival was not threatened by the incident, the amount of money distributed to charity from the event would be impacted.

He said: “Over the year we’ve collected around £600 and were due to empty the collection again, so there could be anything up to £100 in there, but I would guess it was between £40 and £60 in very small coins.

“We hope it’s someone who has a real need, but the money itself would pay for trees in the festival, which would raise more money for some very good charities.

Wiltshire Times: The Reverend Jonathan Poston in St Johns Church DevizesThe Reverend Jonathan Poston in St Johns Church Devizes (Image: Newsquest)

“This money would have paid for three or four trees so it’s sad because people come and enjoy the festival, but also it’s deprived the charities of that money and directly impacted them.

“For someone to come into the middle of the church and take that away when it weighs so much, it’s astonishing.”

The shocking incident has also left Reverend Jonathan Poston disappointed after he attempted to have the church open for everyone during the day.

As a result of the theft, he has now been forced to take precautions, with church sitters and volunteers now manning the building for insurance purposes in case of similar incidents.

The Omnes Christmas Tree Festival is still due to go ahead and will start on December 11, running until the twelfth night.

During this time members of the public will be able to view the Christmas trees, with all proceeds being split between local charities.

Wiltshire Times: The Omnes Advent TrailThe Omnes Advent Trail (Image: Omnes)

These include the Silverwood Charitable Trust, Wiltshire Air Ambulance, Devizes Monday Morning Club, Wiltshire Sight, Devizes & District Opportunity Centre, and Julia’s House Children’s Hospice.

The organisers hope the loss will be offset by the generosity of the event’s sponsors, including retail giant M&S.

They will also be carrying out an Advent trail, which will see windows decorated festively in and around the town.