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‘It feels like a crime against the town’- Rector’s anger over roof theft

PUBLISHED: 13:01 25 February 2020 | UPDATED: 09:05 26 February 2020

Lead from the roof of St Edmund's Church in Downham Market was stolen. Picture: Sarah Hussain

Lead from the roof of St Edmund's Church in Downham Market was stolen. Picture: Sarah Hussain

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St Edmund’s Church located on King’s Walk in Downham Market was the target of thieves last week.

Criminals made off with two-thirds of the lead roof in the early hours of the morning on Wednesday, February 12.

An estimated £30,000 worth of damage has been caused to the Grade I listed building.

Father James Mather, rector at St Edmund's Church in Downham Market for 18 years. Picture: Father James MatherFather James Mather, rector at St Edmund's Church in Downham Market for 18 years. Picture: Father James Mather

Church rector Father James Mather noticed the roof missing when he opened up the church on Wednesday morning.

Father James, who has been part of the church for 18 years, said: "The roofing underlay was all over the church yard and I walked up the path and noticed bits dangling off the roof and one of the gutters missing.

"I was just thinking to myself you cheeky so and so's."

Father James said the stealing of church metals is a well known trend in rural areas.

Lead from the roof of St Edmund's Church in Downham Market was stolen. Picture: Sarah HussainLead from the roof of St Edmund's Church in Downham Market was stolen. Picture: Sarah Hussain

He said: "I think after nearly 29 years in ordained ministry, things don't often surprise me really. But you wouldn't expect it to happen.

"We're not stuck out in the sticks miles and miles away from anywhere, it's quite a prominent place here.

"But I guess at 2 o'clock in the morning or whatever time it is no-one's going to see them do it.

"It was just the brazenness of it all."

Lead from the roof of St Edmund's Church in Downham Market was stolen. Picture: Sarah Hussain Lead from the roof of St Edmund's Church in Downham Market was stolen. Picture: Sarah Hussain

The church has been used as a place of worship for more than 1,000 years and the last time it suffered any type of criminal damage was 20 years ago when it was broken into.

Fr Mather said: "What does shock us always is crime and there is a natural sense of anger on behalf of the community because both regular worshippers and the wider community will be very upset about it and of course there is a lot of local interest in the church being a sacred building.

"It feels like a crime against the town itself, particularly those who aren't regulars-for them the church is a symbol of the town."

"All of our actions for good and bad have consequences so for those who have done this, they must recognise that when they're caught there are consequences of the law.

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"In that sense I don't hold any personal animosity, however I do think it is terribly sad that people treat other people's lives, wellbeing and property in such a cavalier way.

"It makes me wonder what in life do they value?"

MORE: Lead stolen from town centre church.

In addition water damage has been caused to the interior of the church pews and furniture as a result of Storm Dennis, which will mean some of the woodwork will need to be treated and rewaxed."

The church, which has recommended security precautions in place, is now in discussion with their professional advisers to see how that can be increased.

Father James said: "Experience of other places is if someone wants the lead, they'll take it.

"It's like any type of crime, if someone is determined they're determined. But we'll see what can be done."

Speaking about the crime itself he added: "The way we respond to it is hopefully a measure of our faith. Faith is not faith unless it's tested.

"It is OK to be angry, outraged and all those things but we mustn't allow ourselves to wallow in it otherwise it becomes idolatry.

"We just need to up and at it.

"An unfortunate event like this can help to galvanise the community and give them a renewed sense of purpose.

"My hope is it would do that for the congregation and also the wider community to think about its ancient church."

The rector also thanked the workmen who put up the temporary covering on the roof and the volunteers who helped clean up on Thursday, February 13.

Police have been carrying out more patrols following recent thefts in the area.


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