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Heritage properties and fine art are at risk from malicious damage and theft

We recommend the following action to help reduce the risk of them happening to you.

Malicious Damage

There is nothing new about using art to promote a cause. In the last couple of hundred years objects as diverse as the Portland Vase and Velasquez’s 'Rokeby Venus' have been damaged in high profile attacks. 

Within the last 12 months there have been three highly publicised incidents:

tick.gif At Tate Modern to Rothko’s ‘Black on Maroon'
tick.gif In Westminster Abbey to a portrait of the Queen
tick.gif In the National Gallery to arguably its most well-loved British picture, Constable’s ‘The Hay Wain’.


With an estimated £100 million worth of artwork stolen every year within the UK it is clear that this sector is faced with considerable risks from theft. Last year we became aware of a trend in the theft of Chinese artefacts and this year the trend has continued.

You should be alert to anyone acting suspiciously whilst visiting your premises, including members of the visiting public and casual labourers.

Our recommendations

Identify the risk

All operators of heritage properties should assess the risks and introduce suitable levels of security to combat them. Each risk needs individual consideration incorporating elements of staffing/stewarding and physical and electronic security measures. It’s worth reviewing existing security arrangements to see if the introduction of additional controls could prevent you being targeted. Special attention should be paid to well-known works which may be targeted.

You shouldn't overlook the fact that theft can also result in considerable damage to your buildings, as well as the loss of valuable art work.

Exercise increased vigilance around the management of contractors

tick.gif There should be clear signs directing contractors/visitors to a reception area
tick.gif Other access points to the property should be locked or supervised
tick.gif Proof of identity should be obtained from contractors who are unfamiliar to you.
tick.gif Unless contractors are going to be supervised, identity badges should be issued on arrival and collected at departure
tick.gif Details of contractors’ vehicles, and their arrival and departure times should be recorded.

Open days

It’s not practical to screen every visitor to your property but you should review stewarding arrangements when open to the public, particularly areas where there is a high concentration of and/or potentially vulnerable artwork. Brief your staff on what to do if they see someone acting suspiciously.

Protecting works of art from damage and theft is never easy, a balance needs to be achieved between display and security.

It also pays to be alert to potential threats in the wider surrounding area e.g. influx of visitors perhaps attending a nearby event or unfamiliar vehicles in the locality. Experienced criminals often check out premises before taking action, so be vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the police.

Ecclesiastical Insurance Group plc (EIG) Reg No 1718196. Ecclesiastical Insurance Office plc (EIO) Reg No 24869. Ecclesiastical Life Ltd (ELL) Reg No 243111. Ecclesiastical Financial Advisory Services Ltd (EFAS) Reg No 2046087. Ecclesiastical Underwriting Management Ltd (EUML) Reg No 2368571. E.I.O. Trustees Ltd Reg No 941199. EdenTree Investment Management Ltd (EIM) Reg No 2519319. All companies are registered in England at Beaufort House, Brunswick Road, Gloucester GL1 1JZ. EIO and ELL are authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Firm Reference Number 113848 (EIO) and 110318 (ELL). EFAS and EIM are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Firm Reference Number 126123 (EFAS) and 527473 (EIM). EUML is an appointed representative of EIO who is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Firm Reference Number 402228.