The hunt for three ancient gravestones pinched from a historic cemetery with Bronte links is still ongoing as it was revealed locals have raised £700 to pay for security cameras in the graveyard.

In a crime police branded “despicable”, the stones were taken on October 19 at the Old Bell Chapel, also known as the Bronte Bell Chapel, opposite St James Church on Thornton Road, Thornton. It is believed to have been committed to get at the Yorkshire stone.

The Telegraph & Argus revealed weeks ago how taxpayers are footing an estimated £250,000 annual bill because of the sheer volume of Yorkshire stone and metal that thieves are stealing from Bradford landmarks and roads.

Churchwarden Steven Stanworth, who said he was left sickened at the gravestone theft, said he hoped the stone would eventually be recovered.

“It is a bit disappointing,” he said.“Police recovered a lot of stone in Keighley, but we won’t know if any of that is ours until January.

“We have raised £700 to buy security cameras, including £500 from Dean Barker Electricals, and have a Community Payback team coming in March to re-do the decking and revarnish in the grounds. So out of that, we have had some good things come out of it and it has been really positive.

“We have created a commemorative plate to try and raise more money to pay for security measures.”

Officers found 50 slabs at an address in Northcliffe Avenue, Thornton, following information on the theft of flags in November.

A 21-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of the theft of stone from the graveyard and remains on bail.

Sergeant Alex Artis, of the North Bradford Neighbourhood Policing Team, said they were currently reviewing CCTV regarding the gravestone theft and would not be releasing any further information.

"We would urge members of the community to contact us should they witness any suspicious activity, noting down the registration of the vehicle that is transporting stone and any descriptions of those removing it,” he added. This is particularly relevant in areas where stone has been previously stolen and it will help us in tackling any potential offences.” Anyone with information can call the non emergency number on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.