Great Barton; Retiring reverend cross after copper thieves nearly inflict £60,000 of damage

Damaged copper roof at Great Barton Church of Holy Innocents. Damaged copper roof at Great Barton Church of Holy Innocents.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014
8:00 AM

A retiring reverend narrowly avoided a £60,000 bill when “disrespectful” thieves ripped copper off the roof of a Great Barton church.

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Alan Gates, of the Church of Holy Innocents, on Church Road, retired on Sunday after ten years, but not before the thieves left him the disappointing parting gift.

Around £3,000 of damage was done to the church sometime between August 24 at 11.30am and August 26 at 4pm, leaving the prized church organ unprotected underneath.

Alan said: “It is the second time that somebody has tried to steal metal since I have been here.

“This time they have ripped about nine square metres of copper off the roof. I would think to repair the damage it would cost around £2,000 to £3,000.

“There used to be a code amongst even villains that churches were out of bound, but not any more.

“It is irritating. It is a lovely church and it really makes me cross when people disrespect it like that.

“The copper that has been stolen, they would probably get £100 for it, which really doesn’t seem much.”

Alan revealed that the 13th century church could have been facing a much larger bill had the heavens opened up.

“Had there been rain then they would have caused £50,000 to £60,000 in damage to the organ underneath, so thankfully the rain held off,” he said.

The reverend of 13 years is planning to move to Majorca with wife Margaret next month.

The 68-year-old said: “I am also the vicar at Thurston and both churches gave me and my wife a wonderful send off.

“We had a party to see us off and my final service was on Sunday, it was very special. It is just a shame about metal theft, not such a nice goodbye.

“Metal thefts on churches are quite common. The roof was protected with SmartWater, which means there is a good chance the thieves will be prosecuted.

“It is not just churches though – old pubs and load of other buildings have been targeted.”

Despite their plans to retire in the sun, Alan does intend to remain a vicar, offering his services to the chaplaincy on the Spanish island.

The police have been informed about the incident and anyone with information about the crime is asked to contact the St Edmundsbury Rural North Safer Neighbourhood Team on 101 quoting reference BR/14/629.

Alternatively they can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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