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When thieves break through and steal: security arrangements for churches

12 October 2011


From Canon Geoffrey Willett

Sir, — The theft of 16th-century silverware from St Mary’s, Lincoln, which had found no room in the Cathedral vault, is a challenge to every diocese to provide safe storage for such items (News, 23 Sep­tember).

An Elizabethan chalice and cover in this diocese, and a 1638 chalice in a neighbouring diocese, known to me, are in urgent need of such protection. Thieves can easily discover the whereabouts of such plate. I realise that dioceses assuming such responsibility would further increase parish shares, but this is already the case with providing free faculties in the interests of con­servation.

22 Clifton Way
Burton on Trent DE159DW

From Mr Robert Tucker

Sir, — I was very surprised by the report concerning the theft from St Mary’s, Lincoln. It appears that the safe key was hidden somewhere in the church. To my mind, this means that the silver may just as well been left on the altar.

I can understand that old safe keys are too large to carry about and costly to copy, but it is possible to obtain small key safes that are secure, in which such a key could be kept. The persons who need access to the chalices, etc., could then have a key to that safe.

At the church where I am sac­ristan, we have a large walk-in safe, and keys are issued to those who need them. We are a 1930s church with no antique silver, but some good work from that time to the recent years. Therefore I do not wish to publish my address or the church’s.

Address supplied

Sir, — The recent theft of silverware from St Mary’s, Lincoln, highlights what, I suspect, is an issue for many churches. One of my churches has a sizeable collection of “treasure”. We cannot afford to have it valued properly; neither do we have facil­ities to store it safely. It is a collection of church plate that we never use.

Like Lincoln Cathedral, Winchester Cathedral, too, has no space for storing or displaying any more ecclesiastical treasures from the parishes. When approached, the diocesan advisory committee gave permission for only one or two small pieces to be sold off. The rest, we were told, we need to learn to love. But that comes at a price, and is one that we can no longer afford.

Has the time now come for dioceses to provide safe storage facilities for unused church treasures? Or do we wait for the burglar to relieve us of this pressure?

Name & Address Supplied

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