Community rallies to save village church from devastation after lead theft

The lead stolen will leave Navenby church with a bill of up to �40,000 to repair. EMN-191103-180849001
The lead stolen will leave Navenby church with a bill of up to �40,000 to repair. EMN-191103-180849001

A Sleaford area village community is being praised for rallying round to save their parish church from devastation by the weekend storms after thieves stripped lead from its roof.

Police are appealing for witnesses after lead was stolen from the roof of St Peter’s Church in Navenby overnight Friday to Saturday.

Bare boards where the lead was stripped from Navenby Church roof. EMN-191103-180900001

Bare boards where the lead was stripped from Navenby Church roof. EMN-191103-180900001

PCSO Paul Flannigan from the neighbourhood policing team said: “If you have any information that may assist us in our enquiries, please contact Lincolnshire Police on 101 and quote incident number 254 of March 9. Alternatively, you may inform Crimestoppers UK on 0800 555 111.”

Rev Michelle Godbold, priest in charge of the Graffoe group of parishes including St Peter’s Church, said a villager spotted the lead was missing from the south aisle of the nave on Saturday afternoon and alerted the churchwarden who then discovered the lead had gone from the north aisle as well.

It was then a race against time to get temporary sheeting on, the work finishing after midnight - only 10 minutes before the heavens opened again.

Rev Godbold said: “Otherwise it would have completely wrecked and devastated the interior. We had three-quarters of an inch of rain on Saturday night and it would have been like turning on a hosepipe and flooding the church. We have decorative ceiling work and the organ was in danger as well.”

Navenby Church, now with temporary sheeting on after the lead theft from the roof. EMN-191103-180920001

Navenby Church, now with temporary sheeting on after the lead theft from the roof. EMN-191103-180920001

She said: “I understand two or three other churches were hit locally the same night.

“It is upsetting, but the way the community has rallied round and pulled together is amazing.”

Thankfully her brother-in-law, Darren Godbold, is a roofing contractor and got to work, with her husband’s help, laying damp proof membrane to temporarily protect the exposed roof timbers, but with so much to cover they put out an appeal on social media and within minutes villagers turned up with more membrane and tarpaulins.

The priest said without the help of her family and the community the church would have been ruined.

Their next task is to get it more securely covered before more storms forecast for later this week, which could cost around £4,000.

Rev Godbold said: “The next job is to find out how much money we’ll have to raise to have it properly fixed, which could be up to £40,000. Historic England now recommends replacing the lead with turn-coated stainless steel, which is less attractive to thieves.

“We’ve been struggling to keep the building as it is and ran up a £10,000 deficit last year because of works that had to be done.”

They plan to set up a fundraising page at www.graffoechurches.co.uk for the local community to donate and people are already coming up with ideas for fundraising.