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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 September 2007, 15:58 GMT 16:58 UK
Church claims £3.5m after thefts
Lead roof
Rising prices of metals are fuelling thefts from church roofs
Church of England parishes have lodged £3.5m worth of insurance claims so far this year, insurers have said.

Ecclesiastical Insurance said rising international metal prices had led to an increase in thefts of copper and lead from church buildings.

Many claims were made to cover the cost of damage caused by rainwater pouring through roofs stripped of their lead.

Company figures show the Sheffield diocese has been worst hit, followed by the Bristol and London dioceses.

Chris Pitt, spokesman for Ecclesiastical Insurance, said his company had received more than 1,000 claims related to metal thefts so far this year.

We saw a similar spike in claims in the 1970s when metal prices reached a high
Chris Pitt
Ecclesiastical Insurance

As well as stripping roofs of lead, thieves have also stolen copper lightning conductors, bells and statues.

The number of claims had been "directly influenced by the price of metals on world markets", Mr Pitt said.

"We saw a similar spike in claims in the 1970s when metal prices reached a high."

One church had claimed for £20,000 worth of damage after lead had been taken from its roof and its organ damaged, he added.

Summit held

In Leeds, the Reverend Robin Paterson, of St Mary's Church, Middleton, said the situation in his area was getting so bad last month that he had slept in the nave of his church to prevent further thefts.

"In the first raid, there was damage to the south side of the church. Then the thieves returned and stripped lead from the north side," he said.

"There was a lot of interior damage because the roof then leaked. Water narrowly missed the organ - had that been damaged it would have cost tens of thousands of pounds more to sort out."

The Ripon and Leeds diocese is holding a summit next month to discuss how to tackle the problem of church thefts.

The Archdeacon of Leeds, the Venerable Peter Burrows, said he wanted to see "whether there was some action we can take to try to put an end to this recent spate of thefts".

Ecclesiastical Insurance is advising churches to deter thieves by ensuring buildings are well-used community facilities.

It added that churches could also install CCTV and use anti-vandal paints, which stop intruders from climbing because of their slippery surface.




SEE ALSO
Thieves target church artefacts
29 Aug 07 |  Coventry/Warwickshire
Churches facing spate of thefts
27 Aug 07 |  Cambridgeshire

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