Vandals who smashed windows at an abandoned old people’s home in Malmesbury have inadvertently caused the early closure of a popular graffiti zoo.

Police in the town say they reluctantly had to ask for the old Burnham House site to be cordoned off with security barriers.

Street artist Luke Holling-worth had turned the old building into a tourist attraction by creating large pictures of wild animals.

He said: “The zoo was so much fun to create and my heart has truly been warmed by all the chance meetings with happy people and their stories of going to the zoo.

“I’m saddened that the zoo is now off limits, but I quite like the idea of the animals all now being caged away from prying eyes.

“It’s just a shame that a minority of younger, destructive rather than creative, vandals have spoilt the fun for others.”

Malmesbury police sergeant Martin Alvis said: “We are getting numerous calls concerning damage and anti-social behaviour at the old Burnham House site, now more famous for the recent paintings of animals by our well-known local artist from the Stencil Shed.

“Sadly, the site has become too dangerous for visitors, due to numerous insecurities and lots of broken glass from smashed windows.”

He added: “The custodians of the property have been asked to secure the site, but could I ask that – in the interest of public safety and for the reduction of crime and disorder – people keep away from the site.

“It’s been great fun and put Malmesbury on the map for the right reason, but I’m sure [everyone] would agree safety has to come first. We will be making patrols of the site from time to time.”

Wiltshire Council still owns the building, which was closed six years ago when its residents moved to Athelstan House.

A spokesman said it was due to be demolished within the next few months and work should start by the end of the year to create extra care flats for the elderly.

Some people living near to Burnham House have been saddened by the closure.

One, Sarah Lewis, said on Facebook: “Such a shame. Lots of kids messing around there tho. Saw some in the building playing with a fire extinguisher and chucking things out the window.”