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Stealing the roof

14 March 2007

by Margaret Duggan

THERE SEEMS to be no way of stopping the thieves who are raiding churches for their lead and copper. Two churches in <b>Ely</b> diocese have recently lost large areas of lead. St Andrew’s, Great Staughton, has been visited twice by thieves. On one occasion, a sheet of lead 4 feet by 25 feet was taken. And at St Swithun’s, Old Weston, the thieves climbed on to the roof of the south aisle (pictured, above) and used wheelie bins to carry off 30 square metres to — presumably — their waiting lorry.

The Revd Jackie Duck, who has seven parishes altogether, tells me that Old Weston church is very isolated, and has a service only once a month, to which about 20 people come, most of them “incomers” (London or Cambridge commuters). So, few local residents are around during the day. St Swithun’s has had three visits from thieves in all. Brian King of Ecclesiastical Insurance tells me that churches in large cities suffer even more. Lead fetches twice the price it did a year ago, and copper is also up. “We are too trusting,” he says. “Anyone with a hard hat on can do what he likes — so when people notice someone on a church roof they think he is a legitimate builder.” There is, he says, a network of unscrupulous people with lorries, ready to change number plates before delivering to dealers’ yards. He wants churches to get more friendly with their neighbours, and let them know when work is expected or — even more important — when it is not.

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