Churches hit by lead theft: Rector calls on public to sign national petition

A RECTOR who has had four of his churches hit by lead thieves is urging people to sign a national petition calling for new regulations on the sale of scrap metal.

Rev Mike Banyard - Rector of the Three Rivers group of parishes - says thousands of pounds worth of damage was caused when thieves recently stripped lead from the parish church in Fordham.

“This is so frustrating,” said Rev Banyard. “They took lead from the north aisle roof, and an area over the organ. We have had to carry out temporary repairs to stop the rain coming in.”

“The insurance will not cover all our loss, so it will mean more fund raising to replace the lead and repair the damage caused.

“The problem of lead theft could be partly resolved if scrap dealers would not pay cash, if they were paid by cheque then there would be a paper trail.”

The Rector is now encouraging people to sign an e-petition demanding the government amends the Scrap Metal Merchants Act 1964 to make it mandatory for sales of metal to be carried out with cheques or bank cards as a way to help trace those dealing with stolen goods.

Rev Banyard said Fordham church had used one of the latest crime prevention techniques, covering lead with an “smart water” , an invisible marker which rubs on to the thieves. He hopes that will help police to trace the stolen lead.

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So far the e-petition has gathered about 43,000 signatures, but needs 100,000 names to make the issue eligible for debate in the House of Commons.

The latest attack on the Fordham church happened overnight, on November 21 and 22. It was the second time the church had been targeted by thieves, Five months ago the copper lightning conductor was stolen.

Earlier this year, the church at Kennett had lead stolen from its roof; and in May St Margaret’s in Chippenham suffered around �8,000 worth of damage was caused,

At St Andrew’ Church in Isleham, both lead and a lightning conductor were stolen; only the Snailwell church in the benefice has so far escaped.

The theft at Fordham was discovered when a parishioner went into the vestry, and realised it was lighter than normal, because the lead was missing.

Rev Banyard said: “Lead theft is happening all over the place, the church at Wicken has also been targeted in the past; and Haddenham church has also lost lead on several occasions.”

To sign the e-petition, visit