A violent assault on a gay couple marred this weekend’s Worldwide Whitchurch celebrations.

Matthew Seward and his partner were walking home through Jubilee Park about 11.30pm after manning a stall at Party in the Park when they were attacked by a group of youths.

Police say they are treating the attack as a hate crime.

Mr Seward, who lives near Kettering but was in Whitchurch helping his mother on the stall, said: “As we entered the park we saw a group of people hanging around a marquee. I said hello to them because I thought Whitchurch is just a little market town, so there won’t be any trouble. But that was it.

“They started hitting my partner in the head but I ended up taking most of the beating. They were kicking me and punching me then pushed me to the ground and stole my phone.”

The 32-year-old was split up from his partner in the attack and later found him collapsed against the park railings.

He added: “Some of the gang were stood around him but I tried to protect him and get him up. They said if he didn’t get up and leave they would kill him.”

Mr Seward, a retained firefighter, said the assault was completely unprovoked but wonders whether it was a homophobic attack.

 “I think their intention was to attack anyone but maybe it was a homophobic attack or racially motivated as my partner is mixed race,” he said.

The pair were taken to Royal Shrewsbury Hospital where Mr Seward was treated and given stitches in his forehead.

A spokesperson for West Mercia Police said: “The victims were walking through the park, towards Smallbrook Road. It is reported the men encountered a group of approximately nine youths where there was an exchange of words. One of the victims was struck and fell to the ground. The other victim was physically assaulted when he tried to intervene.

“Enquiries are currently ongoing but officers are keen for anyone who saw the assault  who was in the area at the time of the incident, to come forward.”

Anyone with information is asked to call West Mercia Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111, quoting incident number 28S of 4 June.

Mr Seward added: “I was shouting for them to stop. My voice is very loud so I hope someone saw and has information to give to the police.”

The day of celebration saw hundreds of people attend – including visitors from Whitchurch in Hampshire and enjoy entertainment, food and drink.

However, the event was further tarnished when vandals snapped and damaged sapling trees in the park which had been planted by the council last year.