Southwold’s landmark church to get new look roof

St Edmunds church, Southwold is in need of a new roof. The church have applied for planning permissi

St Edmunds church, Southwold is in need of a new roof. The church have applied for planning permission and are waiting to see how much money they will need to raise to replace the iconic green roof. Rev Simon Pitcher outside the church. - Credit: Nick Butcher

It has been a familiar feature of the Southwold townscape for more than 60 years.

But St Edmund's Church could be about to lose its iconic green roof, after plans were submitted to replace its copper covering with lead.

The church's copper roof was laid in 1948 after the lead one it replaced was damaged by debris from German bombs during the second world war. However, it has become brittle and has begun to crack and leak in several places, leaving wooden beams and plaster prone to damage.

The Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich is now seeking permission to install a sand-cast lead roof on the nave and chancel and replace the gutters.

A statement submitted with its application says lead currently costs about the same as copper but it has an expected life of 500 years, compared to 70 years for copper in Southwold's coastal environment. The metal is also less brittle and more repairable.

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It is thought the Grade I listed church originally had a lead roof when it was built in the 15th century but copper was used in 1948 as it was much cheaper.

The proposals have the backing of English Heritage and Southwold Town Council.

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The Rev Simon Pitcher, team rector for Southwold, said: 'The copper is to the point of being life-expired... We can't do any more patch repairs in a worthwhile manner.

'We've got to repair the roof. The question is, do we repair with copper of lead? People are familiar with it being copper. The green gives it distinctive character.

'From a practical point of view we would like to go with a lead roof that will last hundreds of years rather a copper roof that has a life of 70 years.'

Mr Pitcher said the diocese had to apply for planning permission to repair the roof because it would make a big difference to the appearance of the church.

He said it was difficult to speculate on the cost but it could be hundreds of thousands of pounds because of the scaffolding required.

'A lot of water is coming through when it rains heavily because of the gaps and the cracks in the copper,' he said. 'There is some damage to the plasterwork and we won't know the quality of the roof timbers until we take the copper sheeting off.

'It will be very expensive.... We will almost certainly have to do some fund-raising.'

Mr Pitcher said plans were also being made to install a toilet and a kitchen inside the church, which would hopefully be part of the same project.

A public consultation will be held to discuss all the plans once the application has been decided and the designs available.

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