Church members in the Melton are have been left reeling by the theft of thousands of pounds worth of lead from the roofs of their historic buildings at Thorpe Arnold, Ab Kettleby and Plungar this month.
Thieves raided St Mary the Virgin Church at Thorpe Arnold twice within days and dampness caused by rain falling inside the building meant Sunday’s scheduled service was moved to the village hall.
A fundraising campaign is being launched to pay for replacement lead so essential work to install new gutters, drainpipes and drains to cure a damp problem will now be delayed.
The first theft was noticed on Monday February 4 when a contractor from Six Hills conservation and restoration company, MSM, visited to prepare for the planned renovation work and noticed lead was missing from the roof of the south aisle.
A team of helpers from the village quickly brought in buckets to catch the rainwater and it was agreed that MSM would cover the roof on the Wednesday but when churchwarden, Catherine Shenton, arrived to open the church at 8.30am that morning she noticed that lead had also been taken from the roof on the North Aisle.
Catherine said she was ‘really shocked’ that thieves has stolen the lead in two separate raids: “Everyone has been really supportive and I really want to thank them all for their help.”
She added: “Going forward we have all got to pull together to raise funds for a new roof.
“Although the church is insured we won’t get anywhere near the cost to replace what has been stolen.”
The church is in the process of requesting tenders for the guttering and drainpipe work and it was hoped that would be started in spring or summer this year, but putting back lead on the roof will now have to take priority.
It is not yet known how much it will cost and a fundraising initiative called Raise The Roof at Thorpe will be started soon.
The church’s bell ringers are hoping to be able to play in the building again on Sunday, according to bell tower captain, Martin Hansen, after they were unable to practice or perform there over the last week.
Leicestershire Police say the thefts from Thorpe Arnold Church are both thought to have happened overnight on February 5 and 6.
They say lead was also stolen on that night from the roof of St James Church, Ab Kettleby, and from St Helen’s Church in Plungar, overnight on February 6 and 7.
A spokesperson said: “We are currently investigating lead thefts at churches in Thorpe Arnold, Ab Kettleby and Plungar.
“An investigation into each of these thefts is continuing.
“This includes officers speaking to victims, conducting house-to-house enquiries and CCTV trawls.
“We would ask members of the public to contact police if they see anyone acting in a suspicious manner near churches, or buildings in rural areas where lead may be present.
“Anyone who has information relating to the incidents above is also asked to contact police on 101.”