A 46-year-old man has pleaded not guilty to the attempted theft of a ‘priceless’ 800-year-old copy of the Magna Carta at Salisbury Cathedral.

Former Illfracombe resident Mark Royden, now of St Margaret's Street, Canterbury, Kent, is accused of using a hammer to smash the protective glass box surrounding the ancient manuscript on October 25 last year.

He is alleged to have been stopped by members of staff and a tourist before being arrested by police.

The defendant pleaded not guilty to attempted theft and criminal damage to the protective case at Salisbury Magistrates' Court on Friday (June 28).

The attempted theft charge described the Magna Carta, which was not damaged in the incident, as a 'priceless irreplaceable document belonging to the state'.

Royden represented himself and only spoke to enter his pleas and confirm his name, address, date of birth and his nationality - which he stated as English.

The case has been transferred to Salisbury Crown Court to be heard on July 31.

Royden has been released on bail, on condition that he does not enter Salisbury Cathedral or Cathedral Close.

Salisbury Cathedral's copy of the Magna Carta is one of four that remain in existence from the original 1215 charter.

King John issued the Magna Carta after agreeing peace terms with a band of rebel barons and it is now one of the world's most celebrated legal documents.

It established for the first time that neither monarch nor government was above the law and set out principles of liberty which echoed through the centuries.