A £1.8 million project to restore a Grade I listed church in Algarkirk has been hit by thieves who ripped lead from its roof.
Campaigners from the “Church Vision” project at St Peter and St Paul’s claim they have suffered a “devastating setback” after 30 feet of lead was torn from the roof of the church overnight between Sunday and Monday.
Police have linked the theft to one at St Mary’s Church, Frampton, where about a ton of lead was stolen at the weekend.
Cheryllyn Humphreys of Algarkirk Major Project Group said: “We were about to announce the appointment of Heritage Lincolnshire as officers for the Algarkirk Church Heritage Project, along with the launch of our Church Vision for St Peter and St Paul as a community resource.
“But between Sunday night and Monday morning, thieves stripped lead from the roof and porch and damaged the stained glass of the west window.
“Not only has about 30 feet of lead been taken and the porch stolen, but the beautiful stained glass of the window has been damaged to an extent that the loss is irreparable.
“After all the hard work and tireless commitment of those who have been working to bring the church back to a fit state for the community to use as a place of worship and a community resource, this is a devastating setback.”
St Peter and St Paul had secured a £175,000 Heritage Lottery grant for the project last October and was due to launch Church Vision on May 16, while St Mary’s was awarded £46,300 from the Government’s Listed Places of Worship: Roof Repair Fund just last week.
John Cooper, churchwarden at St Mary’s, said: “We lost quite a lot of lead in an area of the church where we have a meeting room that has let all the water in.
“I couldn’t believe it because we have an alarm system that goes through to the police, so I wonder how it could have been done.
“It’s the worst thing that could happen and this is our fourth time now.”
Lincolnshire Police launched Operation Brompton in 2011 to tackle a rise in metal thefts across the county after a number of churches had lead stripped off their roofs.
Police believe that gangs who steal lead eventually sell them on to scrap metal dealers in the UK for a large profit.
Cheryllyn said: “We are now going to have to raise more funds and generate even more support, but we will do it because we are determined to go ahead with the launch.
“However, this pointless crime has made everything so much harder and the gain which the people who did this may make will bear no relation to the enormous devastation and hardship they have caused by ripping it from the church.”
Anyone with information should call PC Anthony Colson on 101, quoting incident number 265 of March 30.