Lead roofing stolen from restored church

CELIA WIGG Thousands of pounds worth of lead roofing has been stolen in the latest attack on one of Norfolk's historic churches. It is a blow for the friends of St Mary's Church, at Redenhall, near Harleston, who have now reached the seventh phase in an on-going project to restore the beautiful building in the Waveney Valley that started with the complete overhaul of its leaky roof more than 20 years ago.

CELIA WIGG

Thousands of pounds worth of lead roofing has been stolen in the latest attack on one of Norfolk's historic churches.

It is a blow for the friends of St Mary's Church, at Redenhall, near Harleston, who have now reached the seventh phase in an on-going project to restore the beautiful building in the Waveney Valley that started with the complete overhaul of its leaky roof more than 20 years ago.

Thieves used a Land Rover, stolen the previous evening, to target St Mary's overnight or early Tuesday morning, stripping about half of the lead from the roof of the building - considered one of the finest churches in the area.

The stolen metal has been valued as scrap at £2,000, but it is estimated that it will cost nearer £10,000 to replace, and police want to hear from any scrap dealers who have been offered a large quantity of lead.

The blue Land Rover Defender was stolen from Earsham, near Bungay, some time after 5pm Monday. Police were alerted to the theft at 10.15am on Tuesday and the stolen vehicle was found burned out in Suffolk during the afternoon.

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Local cleric, the Rev Clive Hudson, said repairing the church roof was the first project for the friends of St Mary's - set up about 25 years to safeguard the historic building which was under threat of closure. And he is hopeful the costs will be met by the insurers.

“It is a lovely church and this was something that we feared, and we are very pleased that the theft has been picked up as soon as it has. If there had been heavy rain before we found out about it much more damage could have been done. We are doing what we can to make it weather proof and move on to getting it repaired,” he said.

Mr Hudson estimated that about half the lead had been stolen.

He added: “There should be a 10am service on Sunday and my understanding is that it will go ahead as it is a large church.”

Diocesan Secretary, Canon Richard Bowett, said the thefts of lead from churches and other buildings is driven by the high prices that scrap metals currently command.

“It is a problem across the whole of the country, and Ecclesiastical Insurance Group are providing parishes whose churches they insure with Smartwater, which is a security marking product that you paint on the lead, because part of the problem is tracing it,” he explained. This enables stolen lead to be easily identified and also acts as a deterrent to thieves, as posters are also issued warning that the roofing has been security coded.

“It is something that we are encouraging our parishes to use,” Mr Bowett said.

t Any information to PC Fred Hulme at Harleston Police Station on 0845 456 4567.

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