A thief who stole historic stocks from outside a church could end up being shackled in them if villagers get their way.
The 250-year-old wooden pillory has been returned to Broughton, Preston by an antique dealer who bought it from a man in good faith.
Now police are trying to track down the culprit who removed the stocks and some flagstones from the church grounds and sold them on.
“It was a big shock to the community when they were taken,” said village bobby PC Chris Banks. “The stocks are important to Broughton and the theft caused a lot of unrest. Everyone is delighted they have been recovered.”
Villagers were furious when the Grade II listed landmark went missing from outside the Church of St John the Baptist. Some even suggested that if they were found the thief should be locked in them as punishment. An appeal was launched through the columns of the Evening Post and it turned up trumps when an antique dealer spotted the article and phoned the police.
“This man had bought the stocks in good faith and didn’t realise they were stolen until he read the paper,” explained PC Banks.
“He was anxious that they should be returned to the village and, even though he has lost money, he’s happy that they are back where they belong.”
Parish Council member Mrs Pat Hastings said: “We don’t know yet whether they have been badly damaged, hopefully not. We are waiting to get them back so we can have a look.
“The thief has caused a lot of annoyance in the village. If we got him in the stocks I think I’d be first in line to throw something. And it would be something even squashier than tomatoes.”