Fury after lead thieves target Grimston church

Roger Haywood (Tres and Fabric Officer) and Rev Judith Pollard in front of St.Botolph's Church Grimston, showing the area of roof where the lead has be stolen from. ANL-141130-122618009
Roger Haywood (Tres and Fabric Officer) and Rev Judith Pollard in front of St.Botolph's Church Grimston, showing the area of roof where the lead has be stolen from. ANL-141130-122618009
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The theft of lead from a church roof in Grimston has been branded sacrilege by a parishioner after it became the latest in a string of West Norfolk churches to be hit.

Despite much of the lead being left behind after the thieves were disturbed, St Botolph’s Church could be facing a bill of tens of thousands of pounds after the roof was ripped apart.

In October, three churches were stripped of their lead, with All Saints Church in Tilney All Saints being left with a £120,000 bill for roof repairs. These reports came after more than half a dozen of churches across the borough were hit.

Grimston was hit last Monday at around 3.45am, when thieves tried to make off with 50sq m of lead roofing, but were interrupted and left half of the lead in the church yard.

Roger Haywood, fabric officer for the church and secretary for the Friends of St Botolphs, said: “It’s sacrilege to assault a Grade I listed building like this. The church is a community building and these people are robbing our community, I can’t imagine why anyone would do this.

“Not only is the roof damaged and left with a hole, but we have broken cast iron drainpipes and damaged tombstones. It’s a huge hit. We’ve always got expenses, but this is so unneccessary.

“We have a great group of fundraisers in the Friends, but their hard work is hampered by this thoughtless vandalism. We’re just very grateful that a resident noticed what was happening and called the police so they were stopped while it was happening.”

The lead that was left behind was damaged beyond use and will have to be sold, but Mr Haywood said the value is significantly less when used for scrap than it costs to replace the roof.

Now the church is having to make do with a temporary roof cover while plans are made for fixing the damage, but services are continuing as normal.

Mr Haywood said: “You can actually see the sky through the roof now, but there was no question of closing the church. Sadly the insurance cover on these things is minimal and won’t cover the damage.

“This is not the first time this has happened and thankfully churches are being more vigilant.”

Temporary Detective Chief Inspector Andy Ninham said: “These crimes cause more than a financial loss. They disrupt local communities and damage our national heritage.

“I would urge communities across Norfolk to be vigilant and make sure they report any suspicious activity in the vicinity of churches by calling 101, or 999 if you believe a crime is in progress.”