Pulham St Mary Church faces bill of up to £100,000 as lead thieves strike again
PUBLISHED: 06:29 15 November 2016 | UPDATED: 08:40 15 November 2016
A historic church is facing a bill of up to £100,000 after it became one of the latest victims of lead thieves who have become the scourge of our region.
Bressingham is the latest location for lead thieves
The latest lead theft happened last Wednesday at St John the Baptist church in Bressingham, near Diss.
The Grade I-listed building’s south aisle was stripped of a piece of lead measuring approximately 26sq m.
The cost to the church is not yet known, but warden Diana Burroughes has said the lead being stolen was not what she was most upset about.
“I can almost cope with the lead, but they smashed a
grave stone,” she added. “It
will have to be replaced. How can you desecrate a grave stone?
“I cannot believe it. It has really got my goat that somebody would do that.”
This is the fourth time in 10 years that the church has been hit by lead thieves. And Mrs Burroughes, who has been warden for eight years, said it was the worst case.
She added: “They [the thieves] have no idea what it entails. You have to get a builder in and make the place water tight and call the police.
“It has a knock-on effect. We are a very tiny parochial church council (PCC). There is one church warden and one member of the PCC. Everything comes on us.”
Pulham St Mary Church, near Diss, had five tonnes of lead stolen after the culprits stripped the entire vestry roof and south aisle of the metal.
St John the Baptist in Bressingham, near Diss, has also been targeted – this brings the number of Norfolk church’s hit by thieves to at least 14.
Pulham St Mary Church warden, John Taylor, said the grade I-listed building had CCTV but he did not have much hope for what the footage can provide.
He said: “I feel so sad that a building that has been loved and used by a village for generations has suffered so much damage. The church is viewed by the village as being their church.”
Furnishing in the vestry has been destroyed after rain water got through the tarpaulin covering the roof. Despite the amount damage caused, Mr Taylor has said services will go ahead as normal.
He said: “We will not cancel a single service. Every service which we normally hold, we will hold.”
The church warden of 10 years has said the church insurance for these types of thefts is capped at around £7,000.
He added: “It will take a long time to fix. There is no quick fix. We will look at fundraising events and grants. We will look at every avenue.”
South Norfolk Councillor Clayton Hudson, who is cabinet member for stronger communities and leisure portfolio, is calling for the government to help the churches. He said: “Parishes have got to do their part. But something has to be done to discourage the thieves and help the parishioners get back on their feet.”
Mr Hudson’s parish includes Pulham St Mary and he added that he thought it was “shocking and particularly devastating” for the congregation.
As part of our Stop The Roof Raiders campaign, the EDP and its sister paper, the East Anglian Daily Times, are offering a reward of at least £26,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for targeting churches.
Det Con Andy Brown, Norfolk police’s metal theft co-ordinator, said there has been an increased number of reported thefts.
He said: “It is very difficult to establish if these thefts are being committed by the same people and at present we keep an open mind. We continue to monitor all lead thefts and continue to support our churches whilst building a picture on suspected offenders.
“We are actively working with the Norfolk diocese installing alarm systems and putting in place crime prevention measures.”
If you have any information about the Pulham St Mary Church lead theft, which is believed to have taken place during the early hours of October 29, or any lead theft, contact police on 101 or 07900407106.