Graffiti referring to a notorious gang linked to a string of crimes including shootings and drug offences has been scrawled across the door of a historic church.

The message at Keighley Shared Church refers to the ‘Topend’ group and has been condemned by the priest-in-charge “They have just got no respect for the church or for other people’s property, it will cost us money to clean it up,” the Reverend Peter Mott said.

He said he assumed the vandalism had only happened very recently.

The wooden door at the back of the building was also damaged.

Mr Mott said: “We don’t use this door much – it’s only really opened if we’re having refreshments in the church hall after an event in the church, or if there’s a big funeral taking place.

“We have had a few problems with graffiti on the church hall – round the back where it’s hidden from view – but we haven’t previously had much graffiti on the actual church.”

He said it was not practical to keep the area behind the church permanently locked, as it had to be open for people going to events in the church hall.

Keighley central ward councillor Abid Hussain said the people responsible for the semi-literate graffiti were “hooligans”.

“It’s disgraceful,” he said. “Churches are peaceful places where people go to pray. If someone put something like this on my mosque I know I wouldn’t be happy. We’re a multi-cultural society and this sort of behaviour is unacceptable.

“The people who did it need to be arrested.”

The vandalism also sparked outraged online, with dozens of people responding to a photograph of the graffiti posted on the ‘You Know You’ve Lived in Keighley When’ Facebook page.

A police spokesman said the graffiti had not yet been reported to them.