New bid to protect Somerset's historic churches from thieves

PUBLISHED: 07:56 07 January 2018

All Saints' Church, in Kingston Seymour, saw £15,000 of lead stolen last summer.

All Saints' Church, in Kingston Seymour, saw £15,000 of lead stolen last summer.

Archant

Two charities have joined forces to help protect Somerset's historic churches from thieves who target the lead on their roofs.

Crooks who help themselves to metal from churches not only do significant damage to important historic buildings, but also cost hard-pressed congregations thousands of pounds to repair.

St Andrew’s Church in Congresbury saw lead stripped from its roof by thieves in both 2011 and 2012, while St Andrew’s Church in Burnham was targeted too in 2012.

New legislation and a police crackdown has helped reduce the number of such thefts, but they still happen. Last June, Kingston Seymour’s graded I-listed All Saints’ Church saw lead worth £15,000 stolen from its roof – a crime described as ‘very distressing’ to the congregation of the 14th century church.

Now, Allchurches Trust has handed the Somerset Churches Trust £30,000 towards the cost of providing 30 roof alarms for churches across the county.

Somerset Churches Trust chairman Dr Axel Palmer said: “We are so pleased with this grant from Allchurches Trust. It really will help churches protect their vulnerable roofs.

“Part of the problem is that if thieves strike then the church may become a victim of the weather because the buildings are not watertight. And even if they are unprotected for only a short period of time heavy rain can cause considerable damage to internal decorations and contents including organs.

The Allchurches Trust charity was set up in the 1970s to promote Christian values and earns its income from businesses it owns, and last year gave more than £13million to church projects across the UK.

Chairman Sir Philip Mawer said: “We’re pleased to be helping to protect some of Somerset’s most beautiful and historic churches and applaud Somerset Churches Trust for taking this initiative.

“In our experience, installing a roof alarm not only deters thieves but acts as a catalyst, inspiring other community action in support of a local church.”

Churches and chapels in North Somerset and Somerset can now apply for grants of £1,000 towards the cost of installing a roof alarm to ward off thieves.

A grant application form can be downloaded at www.somersetchurchestrust.org

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