AN EAGLE lectern made of brass has been stolen from a church in Derbyshire.
Thieves struck last month at St Michael’s, Hathersage, during the day time, stealing the historic artefact from the rural church, which is left open for visitors during the day. The lectern is thought to be worth about £6-7000.
Mike Worstenholme, the churchwarden at St Michael’s, disovered the theft at 5 p.m. when he went to lock the church. “The eagle was a prominent feature of the church, but may have been melted down by now,” he said.
“I was surprised they managed to get the eagle through the church door, which is quite narrow, and in broad daylight without being seen, as there are usually people about. It’s very sad, but I guess it’s a sign of the times.”
A police scientific support unit carried out a search of the church, but failed to find any fingerprints.
At St John the Evangelist, in Seaham Harbour, County Durham, parishioners were shocked to find that lead worth £20,000 had been stripped from the church roof — just weeks after it had been installed.
The congregation had taken ten years to raise the £105,000 needed to repair the roof, but it is hoped that the theft will be covered by insurance.
Chris Pitt of Ecclesiastical, the church insurers, said that £9-million-worth of lead and copper was stolen from 2300 church buildings during 2007, as a result of rising metal prices across the world.
The company received another 1200 claims from churches in 2007, mostly for petty theft.
“Often claims increase owing to the damage made by thieves when forcing entry into church,” Mr Pitt said. “In recent years, claims for the theft of technological items such as video projectors and laptops have increased. There was a trend of brass-lectern thefts about ten years ago, but I hope this is not the start of a new spate.”
He advised churches to mark valuable items with the alpha-dots that can identify stolen property (News, 14 June 2002).