Hethersett church faces major repair bill after roof raiders strip a fifth of its lead

Churchwarden, Kate Wood, and the Rector, Rev Derek McClean, at St Remigius Church, Hethersett, where

Churchwarden, Kate Wood, and the Rector, Rev Derek McClean, at St Remigius Church, Hethersett, where the lead from the nave aisle roof has been stolen. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

A village church is facing major repair costs after thieves stripped its roof of almost a fifth of its lead.

The nave aisle roof, front centre, at St Remigius Church, Hethersett where the lead has been stolen.

The nave aisle roof, front centre, at St Remigius Church, Hethersett where the lead has been stolen. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

Sometime between 7pm on Tuesday, October 27 and 7.20am the following day, intruders smashed through a fence at St Remigius Church in Hethersett to steal lead from the nave aisle roof.

It is a blow for the church team, who have just finished a three-year £100,000 project to repair a slate section of the nave roof, a scheme which was funded largely by the community.

Churchwarden Kate Wood said: 'Apart from the disruptive and distressing effect on the church community, the theft will have an enormous impact on church finances.

'We now face raising the money to replace the roof on the nave aisle. Insurance only covers a fraction of the cost, as insurance companies understandably put very strict limits on cover for lead thefts. So the fundraising starts all over again.'

St Remigius Church at Hethersett where the lead from the nave aisle roof has been stolen. Picture: D

St Remigius Church at Hethersett where the lead from the nave aisle roof has been stolen. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

Heavy rain later that night and the following day also caused damage inside the church.

It is not yet clear how much the lead was worth, but it is estimated to have been about a fifth of the total church roof area.

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Mrs Wood said the crime seemed 'well organised and professional'.

She said: 'The people involved are clearly making substantial profits out of this business – they probably don't realise and certainly don't care that a not-very-well-off church community will find it very difficult to meet the huge repair costs.'

They will be forced to begin fundraising once again - and hope to replace the stolen lead with a lower value material to reduce the chances of a second theft.

Four years ago, the church, on Norwich Road, was targeted by roof raiders, who stole a small amount of lead.

The Reverend Derek McClean, rector, said: 'It's distressing for the congregation to see the effect of water damage in the church itself after just one day of heavy rain. There's a great deal of work involved in sorting out the mess, and we thank all those members of our community who are rallying round to sort things out.'

Incidents of theft have doubled year-on-year in the Norwich area, while figures continue to rise in the rest of the region - particularly the west of Norfolk - as the value of lead soars.

Churches have been encouraged to review their security and take measures including keeping gates locked, storing ladders in a secure place, removing access onto building roofs and installing a CCTV system.

In 2012, Norwich's Roman Catholic Cathedral fitted hi-tech CCTV after three separate lead thefts.

• If you are able to offer financial support or help with St Remigius' fundraising, call Mrs Wood on 01953 602051.

• Officers would like to speak to anyone who may have information. Contact Det Con Andy Brown at Norfolk police on 101.

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