Lead thefts are taking their toll on churches

St Edith's Church at Anwick, targeted by lead thieves in May. EMN-190819-105259001
St Edith's Church at Anwick, targeted by lead thieves in May. EMN-190819-105259001

The Diocese of Lincoln has warned of another recent ‘surge’ in thefts of lead from church roofs.

The warning comes as a number of villages in the Sleaford area are still struggling to fundraise to get their church roofs replaced after the spate of of thefts this year.

The diocese says that since April, 19 churches across the county have been targeted, some more than once.

A spokesman said the thefts have been across the East Midlands with the Diocese of Leicester, Peterborough and Derby also being hard hit too.

The bulk of these have been in the south west of the county around Stamford and the A1 corridor and in central Lincolnshire along the easily accessible A15 and A17 routes.

An earlier spate of thefts in September and October lasy year accounted for a further 15 thefts in broadly similar locations, bringing the total number of lead thefts in the diocese at 34. That equates to a shocking five per cent of the county’s 630 churches hit by thieves.

In total over the past 10 years about 12 per cent of Lincolnshire’s churches have been the subject of lead theft, stated the spokesman.

He explained: “The theft of a lead roof can have a devastating effect on a parish and with insurance claims for lead theft generally capped at unrealistic levels, parishes are left with the task of raising the additional funds in order to replace their roof covering.

“The cost of recovering an aisle roof in stainless steel (to prevent further theft) is on average £40,000-50,000. Additionally, grant funding has become far more difficult for churches in recent years due to increasing competition from other historic buildings which results in parishes spending a great deal of time working on funding applications rather than worship, mission and ministry.”

The Diocese of Lincoln has a church building team who are on hand to help parishes, providing full assistance to help them raise the necessary grant funding to repair roofs and undertake other church repair and development projects.

Lincolnshire Police have recommended replacement with less valuable alternative materials where permitted, fitting alarms, Smart Water and other anti-theft devices.

Parishioners of St Edith’s Church in Anwick were stunned when the roof covering an entire aisle in May.

Stephen Allenby was one of the villagers who organised putting a temporary thick, plastic sheet over to protect it from the rain. He said: “It is still in the hands of the insurers and they are getting quotations whether to go for stainless steel or tiles, but definitely not lead. It has not stopped us using the church.“

But he said the frustration is the cost and inconvenience of getting it waterproofed at a time when churches are in hardship as it is,

Wilsford and Kelby churches were targeted soon after. A temporary covering has been placed on the roofs awaiting the insurance company claims process.

Rural Dean Sonia Barron commented: “When people remove parts of buildings it is the community that suffers.”

St Peter’s Church in Navenby was targeted in March, while Sleaford Methodist Church lost part of its roof in June.

With a cap on insurance pay outs, Navenby has been desperately raising the £80,000 to replace its temporary covering with events such as an art exhibition.