A Maryport museum is reviewing its security after its first theft in over 25 years. 

A Roman altar was taken from the Senhouse Roman Museum last week and museum manager Jane Laskey said she and her colleagues were devastated.

Mrs Laskey said: "The day after the theft was discovered, I just wanted to keep the doors locked and not let anyone in.

“This museum has been here for 25 years and nothing like this has ever happened before. We can’t get over it. Everyone is so shocked.

"I am torn between being very upset and very angry.

This is our museum - it belongs to Maryport. I think I would rather discover that it was someone from out of the area than someone local who took the altar.”

The altar was stolen sometime during museum opening hours last Thursday.

Mrs Laskey said the theft could change the way the museum operates. 

Nothing at the Sea Brows museum is behind glass.

Visitors have been able to get up close to the Netherhall Collection, altars which have international importance in revealing the story of Ancient Rome and its empire.

Now, Mrs Laskey said, there will have to be a security review.

She added: “We do not know yet exactly what that would mean but I hope it does not change the unique experience people have here.

“For 25 years we have welcomed visitors to the museum and it has always been a priority to us that the collection is made accessible to everyone

“It is very unpleasant to find that someone abused that trust to steal something that is such a significant part of the heritage of the people of Maryport."

The small red sandstone altar, which was discovered at the Maryport Roman site in 1880, was 25cm high and 13cm wide.

Mrs Laskey said: “It could easily have been put into someone’s large handbag or even hidden under a coat."

Museum staff fear it may have been damaged during the theft as it was wrenched from iron clamps, which have been bent. 

The altar, which was at least 1,600 years old, was on display in the main gallery of the museum.

But she said it was the motive that was the mystery.

She added: “I know there is a market for antiquities. This was not valuable in monetary terms although in terms of its cultural and historical significance, especially within the context of our collection, it was priceless.”

Police are reviewing CCTV film footage from the day.

Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101.