Church thefts add up to £1million

PUBLISHED: 14:42 22 August 2007 | UPDATED: 12:43 04 May 2010

Dr Anthony Russell, the Bishop of Ely

Dr Anthony Russell, the Bishop of Ely

By CATHERINE ATKINSON MORE than half a million pounds worth of damage has been caused to churches in the Diocese of Ely in the last month. This brings the total for the last year to a whopping £1 million and has prompted the Bishop of Ely to write to the

By CATHERINE ATKINSON

MORE than half a million pounds' worth of damage has been caused to churches in the Diocese of Ely in the last month. This brings the total for the last year to a whopping £1 million and has prompted the Bishop of Ely to write to the chief constable of Cambridgeshire police to voice his concerns.

"The cost of church thefts this year totals nearly £1million," said Owen Spencer Thomas, spokesperson Dr Anthony Russell, the Bishop of Ely.

"In one case in the diocese, lead was stolen before it had even been put on the roof, which was under repair," he told the Ely Standard.

"It's not just the cost of replacing the lead, which has trebled in price over the last year, but the church has to employ very skilled master craftsmen to carry out repair work on what are historic buildings. Thieves have been quick to capitalise on the price rise in lead, with lots of churches being targeted in rapid succession. Those close to the A14 particularly vulnerable."

The latest theft was at the Holy Trinity Church in Haddenham, which has been hit twice in August by thieves who caused minimal damage to the building itself but took thousands of pounds worth of lead overnight on Monday. Church staff noticed the hole in the north porch before leaks could cause further damage.

"We assume it happened overnight because the lead was stolen from our north porch and lots of people use that area as a shortcut in the daytime," said Canon Fiona Brompton of Holy Trinity.

"People round here have been fairly robust about it, more annoyed than upset, but there is a frustration there, people are thinking: why would they want to do this? Our churchwarden in particular has spent many years caring for the building and he just doesn't understand it."

"For the bishop to alert the police to a problem of this nature is very rare and reflects the serious nature of recent events," said Mr Spencer-Thomas.

"However, I believe that following the bishop's letter and chief constable Julie Spence have had a very helpful conversation this week. The police seem to have fully understood the financial impact of these thefts on the Anglican community."

"We are there to support parishes in this", said Mr Spencer-Thomas.

"Obviously the responsibility for upkeep and repairs lie with each of them but we are on hand to offer advice on insurance companies and to issue the necessary paperwork which allows the churches to carry out further repairs."

The church of St George in Littleport was also hit. Police say a small quantity of lead was stolen from the north side of the roof last month, leaving spikes of metal sticking upwards.

INFO: If you have any information regarding lead thefts call Cambridgeshire police on 0845 456 64 564 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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