Monday, 5 September 2011

Lead Theft

Last week, I visited a church where the wardens were at the end of their tether! They had suffered three successive thefts of lead. This is a Grade 1 listed building in a deeply historic setting with a small band of dedicated people who put a huge amount of time and energy into caring for their church building and supporting those who wish to worship and celebrate baptisms and weddings there. Not only have they made many improvements recently, but they are determined to make their church a place of welcome and hospitality for worshippers, visitors and pilgrims. Indeed, as I walked round the church and church yard, there were visitors from Scotland and Australia enjoying the quiet beauty of the place, praying and looking at the various points of historical interest. But there is, quite simply, an end to the amount of money PCCs and villagers can raise to keep replacing lead taken from church roofs - and there is that sinking feeling in the pit of everyone's stomach - not again!  Insurers will no longer cover anything more than a first incident of theft; after that, parishes receive only a nominal sum towards what might turn out to be repeated replacements of lead. The experts and the amenity authorities such as English Heritage are beginning to look more favourably at the use of alternative substances in some places.

It makes us all very angry, frustrated and sad that so much completely unnecessary effort goes into just keeping a watertight roof on the church.

For information about how to prevent lead theft go to

There is a very good check list for churches to use which helps you assess how at risk of theft your church may be. You can download this from the Norwich Diocesan website at

You can also help by signing an e petition asking the government to amend the Scrap Metal Merchants Act 1964 to prohibit cash transactions in the scrap metal industry. Because so much of the trade that goes on in the industry involves cash-in-hand transactions, it is very difficult for the police to identify and trace those who may be involved in selling or purchasing stolen metal. Also, always make enquiries about where lead that is going to be used on your building has come from!

And finally - if you see anyone on the roof of a church, contact the local priest or church warden straight away (telephone number usually on the church notice board) to make sure they should be there. If you can't get hold of anyone and you suspect they should not be there (it is dark or you know that workmen were not expected) note down the number of their vehicle and ring the police immediately. 

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