Thieves have taken 1.5 tonnes of lead from the roof of a Grade I Listed church.
The gang is believed to have struck at St Mary’s Church in Weldon sometime between Wednesday and Saturday last week.
Sandra Whitlam, who has been verger at the church for nearly 38 years, discovered the theft on Saturday and said: “First thing I saw was a great big hole up there.”
She fears the thieves will come back because there is still a lot of lead up there, and added: “Everybody is just so sad, I feel like we have been desecrated.
“They have not done it on spec, they have been and sized us up.”
The Revd Kane Taylor said: “They have used ladders and ropes, and used the field out the back to park the van there.
I just feel like we have been desecratedSandra Whitlam
“It’s the least exposed corner so it’s the best place to hide.”
Tyre marks can be seen in the field behind the church and there are marks in the ground where the lead has been thrown down.
There are marks where ladders have gone up against the wall and a gravestone has been moved during their efforts, which could have taken as little as 30 minutes to strip the lead.
Some brickwork has also been damaged.
The theft comes almost a year to the day since 750 litres of oil was stolen from the church, which is nearly 700-years-old, and they also had all their mowers stolen once.
But Mrs Whitlam said this is the worst incident they have had to deal with.
However, she said the congregation rallied round as soon as they heard what had happened and people offered to help in whatever way they could.
A police spokesman said officers had been out to the church but they would like to hear from anyone with information about the theft by calling 101.