When will it end? Churches in Hempnall, Newton Flotman, and Topcroft the latest targeted by lead thieves

Lead thieves targeted St Margaret's Church, Hempnall. ANL-161011-091011001

Lead thieves targeted St Margaret's Church, Hempnall. ANL-161011-091011001

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When will it end?

Just two weeks ago the Diss Express reported how a festival launch at St Nicholas’ Church in North Lopham turned to shock when it was discovered lead had been stripped from the roof.

Lead thieves targeted St Margaret's Church, Hempnall. ANL-161011-090959001

Lead thieves targeted St Margaret's Church, Hempnall. ANL-161011-090959001

And since then three more churches in the Diss Express area — Hempnall, Newton Flotman and Topcroft have been targeted.

Grade I listed St Margaret’s Church in Hempnall was targeted by lead thieves between 7pm on Friday and 7am on Saturday morning.

A village resident spotted the roof had been targeted while taking his dog out for a walk through the churchyard.

Claire Key, who has been church warden for five years with husband David, said a 25m x 3 stretch of lead, weighing between three and four tonnes, had been stripped from the whole of the north wall.

It is just that total lack of respect which you cannot comprehend

Jackie Leggett, church warden at St Margaret’s Church, Topcroft

The church is insured — but fundraising will have to take place to generate enough to repair the roof and install an alarm, which will cost about £35,000.

Mrs Key said: “I was absolutely horrified to start with.

“My first reactions are not what they are now. I feel very sad now that it has happened and that somebody could treat God’s house like that.

“They are taking it from the village. The church is the heart of the village and it belongs to the village. They are wonderful people here who use the church an awful lot.”

Lead theft at church - St Mary's Church, Newton Flotman ANL-160911-145456009

Lead theft at church - St Mary's Church, Newton Flotman ANL-160911-145456009

Church services and events are running as normal, but the craft fair, due to run at the church from 10am to 1pm on Saturday, November 12, will now be held in the village hall.

The last time the church roof in Hempnall was targeted by lead thieves was in 1859, with perpetrators using a horse and cart to take the lead away.

About 12m x 12m of lead was taken from the roof of St Mary’s Church in Newton Flotman, in the early hours of Wednesday, November 2.

Revered Canon Sally Gaze, Team Rector in the Tas Valley since 2002, said she was “gutted” when she heard the news.

Lead theft at church - Church of St Margaret, Topcroft ANL-160911-145537009

Lead theft at church - Church of St Margaret, Topcroft ANL-160911-145537009

Would-be thieves attempted to strip the church roof of lead back in May but were unsuccessful.

And the church was in the process of purchasing a roof alarm at the time of the theft.

The church is insured, floodlit, with the lead SmartWater protected, while hedges had also been trimmed to improve visibility.

“In our villages, often the churches are a real focus of community activities,” she said. “People who take lead from roofs, it is those people who they are hurting.

“Churches are not only used once a week for worship. They are real resources for our villages and everybody gets hurt when something happens to target them.

“One of the problems for historical churches is that we have been obliged to put lead on our roofs, so I think that is something that should be considered by the heritage organisations for what we can use.”

Lead thieves also targeted St Margaret’s Church in Topcroft on Friday night — but an alarm system, installed four years ago, deterred them.

Church warden of nearly 25 years Jackie Leggett said they took the decision to install it after lead was stolen from the roof eight years ago.

“Alarms are very. very important,” she said. “We had our lead SmartWater protected but it didn’t make much of a difference.

“It is devastating really, because we work so hard, only just able to pay our quotas and to keep the church in a reasonable condition.

“It is just that total lack of respect which you cannot comprehend.”

Anyone with information on any of the thefts or attempted crimes should contact police on 101.