Church leader’s despair at lead thefts in villages

The Archdeacon of Boston, Dr Justine Allain Chapman (back right) with Tydd St Mary Primary School headteacher Sonya Ripley, priest-in-charge Rev David Oxtoby and pupils Bethany Wilson, Elizabeth Burton, Harry Groves and Leo Ball.
The Archdeacon of Boston, Dr Justine Allain Chapman (back right) with Tydd St Mary Primary School headteacher Sonya Ripley, priest-in-charge Rev David Oxtoby and pupils Bethany Wilson, Elizabeth Burton, Harry Groves and Leo Ball.
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The church leader responsible for two buildings from which more than two tonnes of lead was stolen has described her despair at the latest attacks.

Archdeacon of Boston Dr Justine Allain Chapman admitted it was a “constant struggle” to maintain and protect churches like St Peter and St Paul’s, Algarkirk, and St Mary’s, Frampton, from lead thieves.

Both churches were targeted two weeks ago just months after news they are to receive grants totalling more than £220,000 for restoration and projects in the villages.

Dr Allain Chapman, who oversees churches in South Holland, Bourne and the Deepings, said: “It is a constant struggle to maintain these vast and beautiful mediaeval buildings and the theft of metal can cause unbearable burdens on the volunteers who look after them.

“We have been looking at and testing various security measures to try and protect the churches from metal theft as the taking of roofing materials causes, not only huge financial and administrative burdens, but diverts funds and energy away from serving the local communities.”

Police are still trying to trace the lead stolen from both churches, helped by new technology tried out at St Peter and St Paul’s where the lead has been marked with coded microdots which can survive temperatures used to melt down and recycle metals.

In an interview with BBC Radio Lincolnshire, John Minary, managing director of Trace-in-Metal Ltd which has developed the technology, said: “The scenarios with both churches speaks of the serious and organised nature of this crime and the question I have is why, in the 21st century, is this still happening?

“This is a test case for us because this is the first occasion on which we’ve had any lead (with coded microdots) stolen. We have alerts out all over the country to look for this lead, but let’s be clear about this.

“The drivers behind this horrendous crime are the unscrupulous scrap metal dealers and it’s simply a matter of finding the lead, tracing it back to the source of the theft and we’ll have a really strong evidence trail there.”

Matthew Godfrey, historic churches support officer for the Diocese of Lincoln, added: “Hopefully, this new technology will prove to be a very good deterrent to stop this happening in the future.”

n Churches count the cost – pages 8 and 9.