Copper stolen from pier theatre

STEPHEN PULLINGER Yarmouth council leader Barry Coleman last night condemned thieves who have plundered one of the town's top heritage sites for a second time in two years.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

Yarmouth council leader Barry Coleman last night condemned thieves who have plundered one of the town's top heritage sites for a second time in two years.

Astonished staff turned up for work at the seafront Winter Gardens to find thieves had stripped all the copper off the famous domed roofs from the neighbouring Wellington Pier theatre.

The roofs, which have greeted generations of holidaymakers queuing to book shows, had been removed by crane in November 2005 and were being stored on site during the complete restoration of the theatre building.

One staff member commented that it had been amazingly fast work to strip the entire 7.5 tons of copper overnight, leaving just the bare wood.

Council conservation officer Darren Barker, who is overseeing the grant-aiding of the £2m restoration project, said: "This theft is obviously disappointing, but I think it is likely the copper would have had to be replaced anyway before the roofs go back on because of its condition."

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The site was the target for thieves two years earlier when valuable artefacts, including terracotta urns, balustrade and metal shields were plundered.

They were only saved for future generations after detective work by conservation officer Stephen Earl who tracked them down to a Norfolk architectural salvage yard.

Mr Coleman, who has a passion for the town's history, said: "It is most unfortunate when crime impacts on our heritage and this sort of thing is an indictment on society."

Yarmouth police spokesman Jenna Smith said officers would be checking CCTV film from the area to see if it shed light on the theft. In the meantime they were appealing for witnesses who might have seen anything suspicious last Wednesday night.

The theatre's restoration has been delayed by unexpected problems with the steel and wooden sub-structure, which has involved much more extensive repairs than envisaged.

The theatre's steel structure, which was dismantled to be repaired off site because of the need to remove hazardous lead paint, is now scheduled to be put back in the spring, and re-cladding of the building will take place at the end of the summer season.

Family Amusements, which leases the pier from the council, plans to have the interior refitted - replacing the theatre with a family centre, bowling alleys, bars, live entertainment area and restaurant - in time for next year.