Thieves dock steeple

by
22 October 2008

BY Ed Beavan

Making it safe: a crane was brought in to enable Chan Richardson of Gill Demolition to remove loose stones and stabilise the damaged steeple at St John’s, Birkby, Huddersfield HUDDERSFIELD EXAMINER

Making it safe: a crane was brought in to enable Chan Richardson of Gill Demolition to remove loose stones and stabilise the damaged steeple at St Joh...

A CHURCH where the tip of the steeple was ripped off by lead thieves has been rendered “virtually uninsurable” for the future, its Vicar designate, the Revd Sue Clarke, says.

A 12-foot section of the steeple at St John the Evangelist in Birkby, Huddersfield, ended up in the churchyard in August, after thieves tried to steal the lightning conductor by attaching a rope to it from a BMW car. They fled with nothing after their attempt brought part of the steeple down.

Masonry also fell on the body of the Grade-II* listed church by the Victorian architect William Butter­field. It caused damage to the roof and floor which will cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to repair. A roofer had been at the church on the day of the attack, replacing stolen lead flashing.

Mrs Clarke said that the insurers had been very supportive, but had said that they would not pay out more than £5000 for any future metal thefts from the church, which has one of the highest towers in the Wakefield diocese.

“One of the most distressing things for us to cope with now is that we are now virtually uninsurable,” she said. “It has put us in a vulnerable position, and we are going to have to think very carefully about security lights and CCTV. We need to raise funds for that and make provision for the future.”

Mrs Clarke believes, however, that the incident can be a springboard for future growth in the parish, as community groups have already rallied round in response to the theft. “The community around the church, including many of our Muslim neigh­bours, has been very sup­port­ive, and people have started fund-raising. I’m very hopeful for the future of the church, and that this is the start of something new.”

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