Billingborough Church hit by ‘substantial’ lead theft from its roof as it prepares for Christmas events

Plastic sheeting being nailed on to the stripped south aisle roof of Billingborough Church, by churchwarden Geoff Hallam (left) and parochial church council member Trevor Wells. EMN-190612-180349001
Plastic sheeting being nailed on to the stripped south aisle roof of Billingborough Church, by churchwarden Geoff Hallam (left) and parochial church council member Trevor Wells. EMN-190612-180349001

Another parish church in the Sleaford area has been targeted by lead thieves - just as it prepares to celebrate Christmas.

Lincolnshire Police have reported that St Andrew’s Church in Billingborough has had a “substantial” amount of lead stolen from its roof.

Billingborough Church Warden Geoff Hallam, who is a local builder, working on making the roof water-tight after the lead theft. EMN-190612-180430001

Billingborough Church Warden Geoff Hallam, who is a local builder, working on making the roof water-tight after the lead theft. EMN-190612-180430001

This is believed to have occurred overnight Tuesday to Wednesday this week, although Priest in Charge, Rev Neil Knox, said parishioners only discovered the crime this morning (Friday) when they opened up the church.

All the lead has been stripped from the south aisle roof, said Rev Knox: “Overnight the water has streamed in and soaked everything from the servery to the Lady Chapel.

“We have schools services coming up, crib and carol services and a ‘lonely lunch’ next Saturday where members of the community who live alone come in, so we are doing our best to make the church water-tight and continue to clean up and carry on as we find a way to recover from the position and remedy it.”

He said the thieves had effectively targeted the young and the elderly by impacting on these church services, but insisted the church community is resilient.

Trevor Wells nailing down plastic sheeting as a temproary fix on the stripped roof at Billingborough Church. EMN-190612-180253001

Trevor Wells nailing down plastic sheeting as a temproary fix on the stripped roof at Billingborough Church. EMN-190612-180253001

Plastic sheeting has been nailed over the exposed roof timbers as a temporary fix.

He said the building is insured but is never covered enough to recoup all the losses. Replacement of the roof with whatever material is deemed appropriate by English Heritage will run into tens of thousands of pounds. In comparison, he said, the money the thieves would get from selling the lead would be “miniscule”.

Rev Knox is in charge of six parish churches in the area and two of them have been targeted by lead thieves in the past, he said, while the trend has spread across the county over the last 12 months due to the seemingly lucrative returns for the thieves.

He said other churches in the area have been warned of the incident and to be on the alert.

“They appear to have been quite athletic in climbing and jumping from roof to roof,” said Rev Knox, who explained last night’s rain had caused the additional damage.

“It has left us with about two inches of water in the servery area where we have kettles and urns for refreshments for services and coffee mornings and for our Lonely Church events. We are checking the electrical items are safe.

“The kneelers, altar and altar cloths are all fairly soaked and we have had to take up the carpets. Hopefully that is cosmetic and not long-lasting damage.”

He added that parishioners he had met today were shocked and disappointed that such a crime continues to impact on communities in ways not easy to remedy. But he said villagers were pulling together with offers of help to clean up which he said was “wonderful” and “positive”.

“It shows people do come together in adversity and we are committed to find a way that all our events continue to take place as we planned or with minor adjustment,” he said.

PCSO Sandra Brommell from the Bourne and Billingborough policing team said: “Please be vigilant, it is extremely likely that the unknown offenders will return, as well as the possibility that other parish churches may be targeted.”

Call 101 if you can assist with police enquiries quoting crime number 19000652897.

Alternately call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.