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Since September 2019 troughs have been reported taken from areas in south London and Kent: Penge, Bell Green, Downham, Chislehurst, Coombe Lane and Widmore Green. According to Kent Police, the latest theft was a 8ft x 2ft (2.4m x 61cm) trough taken between 3-6am on January 5 from the A26 London Road in Southborough, near Tunbridge Wells.

Like most municipal animal troughs it is inscribed with the name of a donor, in this case the name of Sir David L Salomons with the date 1894.

A second trough was reported stolen from Eridge Road in Tunbridge Wells, but Kent Police has not yet logged its disappearance. It is inscribed George and Annis Bills – Australia to one side, and to the end Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association (MDFCTA).

Historian Alan Underwood has catalogued and created a database of many of the MDFCTA community troughs and has been helping to collate information about these thefts.

He said: “I first started researching the MDFCTA’s fountains and troughs about 15 years ago.

“I came across the remains of five that had been stolen in London over a period of about five years previously.

“To my best knowledge, in the intervening 15 or so years before September 2019, only one further trough (in Woolwich) has disappeared.

“What has triggered the current spate of thefts?”

Anyone with information on any of the thefts should call the police on 101.

Regarding the Penge theft, use the police crime reference number 3320094/19, for Chislehurst use the number 3320566/19 and for Coombe Lane it is 3838235/19. Regarding the Tunbridge Wells troughs, contact Kent Police on 01622 604100, quoting reference 5-0425.