A 400-year-old church gate and a charity shop were damaged when a motorist accidentally drove into them.

The beautiful 17th century lychgate at St Peter’s Church in Yateley is the oldest lychgate in Hampshire and one of the oldest in the country.

On Saturday (July 5), a woman crashed her car into the medieval gate and the church’s charity shop, Discoveries. The shop is now closed until structural works are carried out and it is hoped that the historical gate can be repaired.

St Peter’s vicar Andy Edmunds said: “When couples get married, friends and family throw confetti at them under the gate.

“It has got a sentimental meaning for people in Yateley.

“One of the most notable parts of St Peter’s Church is the lychgate when you arrive in the car park.

“It is early days but I certainly hope we will be able to get the gate repaired.

“Initial assessment suggests that we will be able to repair and restore it.”

The car reversed heavily into the front of Discoveries and then careered forwards into the lychgate at the Anglican church entrance.

The woman’s car came to a halt in the churchyard beside a large Yew Tree, leaving the lychgate in pieces and the shop front structurally damaged.

Initial assessments confirm that the shop will require major repair work which will take some time, but it is hoped that temporary repairs are possible so that Discoveries can open within a few days.

The shop has been closed since Monday but donations are being received at the rear of the building.

Discoveries in Yateley was also damaged by the motorist
Discoveries in Yateley was also damaged by the motorist

Mr Edmunds said: “We are very grateful to God that nobody was hurt during the incident.

“With so many people around watching the Morris Men in Church End Green, this is truly miraculous”.

The charity shop provides fundamental income for the church and for its long term project to revamp the site. The shop is open six days a week and sells pre-owned items including clothing and gifts.

“We have plans to renovate the shop, so income from it is vital for us to be able to do that,” he added.

“That is an issue that could hit the timescale of the project.

“At one time we were thinking of demolishing the shop but local people were worried and upset about that and wanted it to remain open.”

The lychgate is dated 1625, carved in the wood on its inside and originally had a swing gate.

The gate doors were removed to improve access to the church and are stored in one of the outbuildings.

Yateley historian Peter Tipton said: “It is a very old gate. It used to have a swing but was removed as it kept getting vandalised.

“The gate is in a conservation area and I do hope the church will be able to reconstruct it.”

The accident is currently being dealt with by the church’s insurance company.