Fundraisers raise roof after church lead theft

Church warden Mike Jones, treasurer Peter Hartley and Steve York of the Parochial Church Council pictured at St Mary's Church in Burton Latimer which has been affected by thefts. The men have all slept in the church to try and prevent it happening again.
Church warden Mike Jones, treasurer Peter Hartley and Steve York of the Parochial Church Council pictured at St Mary's Church in Burton Latimer which has been affected by thefts. The men have all slept in the church to try and prevent it happening again.

Church leaders say they feel humbled after parishioners raised more than £10,000 after a spate of lead thefts left a church’s finances crippled.

Members of St Mary’s Church, in Church Street, Burton Latimer, held a fundraising appeal day on Saturday, February 4, and members of the public responded by donating about £10,500.

The appeal was launched after a spate of lead thefts in the autumn last year left the church with a £15,000 bill for repairs.

The situation became so bad that church members had to take turns to sleep in the church to keep a vigil against the thieves.

Warden Michael Jones said: “I’m actually overwhelmed by the generosity that has been shown by the people who have donated. To have this level of response, especially during these difficult economic times, is very humbling. I can’t sing the praises of the people who donated enough.

“The money will go a long way for us, it is an absolutely incredible amount.”

The raised funds will go into the church’s reserves which was wiped out by repair work.

The thieves struck at the church, ripping thousands of pounds worth of lead from its roof, on August 18, September 2, and again on September 6.

They also caused damage of around £1,500 by smashing stained glass in order to get their hands on lead lining worth £30.

In an Evening Telegraph survey carried out in December last year, only three out of 23 churches said they had not had lead stolen.

Mr Jones has said the church has installed an alarm system to ward thieves off stealing lead, which he thinks is a countrywide epidemic.

He added: “It’s happening everywhere up and down the country.

“I don’t think any area is safe, we’ve seen people even stealing lead from cathedrals. It’s a major problem for the police and unfortunately some churches in rural locations have had to shut down because they can’t afford the cost of repairing the damage.

“It was quite extreme to stay overnight at the church, but the thieves didn’t come back.

“We’ve done everything we can to mitigate any future losses and it’s always good to have money in reserve because you never know what you could be hit by.”