Fund launched to help save Suffolk’s churches from thieves
- Credit: Gregg Brown
A fund to help improve security at Suffolk’s churches was launched this week, following the sixth lead theft in a month.
The Alarms for Churches Appeal was launched by the Suffolk Historic Churches Trust (SHCT) on Tuesday, and will help churches cover the cost of having alarms installed by providing grants of up to £2,500.
The trust has made negotiations with an approved security alarm supplier as part of the appeal and the first 10 churches to apply are guaranteed to receive a share of the funding.
The scheme comes after Hundon All Saints Church, near Haverhill, was targeted, with around £30,000 of lead roof stolen overnight on September 17 to 18.
Reverend Stuart Mitchell, rector of the Stour Valley benefice which includes Hundon, said: “I feel extremely sad for the community of Hundon.
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“Worst of all was an act of desecration, they have smashed a 200 or so year-old tomb built to remember someone, presumably when dropping the lead.
“I have come to realise being angry doesn’t help me, it won’t help Hundon and won’t stop the thieves. I would say to them (the criminals) why have you hurt the community and what do you get out of it?”
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Some of Suffolk’s churches were recently found not to have adequate security measures in place and would only be able to claim up to £7,000 from insurance companies to help them repair the damages.
Since August 23, when St Mary’s Church in Combs was targeted, six Suffolk churches have fallen victim to lead thefts.
Last Monday (September 14), around 10ft by 30ft of lead was stolen from the roof of St Mary’s Church, Dennington, and rector Jonathan Olanczuk last week branded those committing the thefts as “callous”.
On September 9, St Mary the Virgin Church in Parham had around 25m by 10m of lead stripped from its roof.
Overnight on September 3, lead was stolen from the church of Stratford St Mary.
The theft in Combs was followed by a theft at St Peter and St Paul’s Church in Lavenham on August 25, leaving bills of around £150,000 each.
The SHCT is appealing for the people of Suffolk to donate to the cause to ensure that more of the county’s churches are properly protected and can secure full insurance cover should they fall victim to lead thieves in the future.
SHCT chairman Martin Favell said: “Current ecclesiastical insurance policies will only pay the first £7,000 of a claim if no suitable alarm is installed. Many churches and chapels simply cannot afford the cost of these alarms.
“When a church is targeted local people are faced with massive repair bills, not only to replace the missing lead but also repair the considerable rain damage that can result from the theft.
“Alarms not only act as a really effective deterrent, but also their presence means that were the worst to still happen, their insurance will cover the cost of the damage.
“If the people of Suffolk really get behind this appeal, we can have a huge impact in deterring the criminals and saving these buildings which define the Suffolk landscape and are a treasured part of our towns or villages.”
To donate to the fund, visit www.justgiving.com/suffolkhct or send a cheque to The Secretary, Suffolk Historic Churches Trust, Brinkleys, Hall Street, Long Melford, Suffolk, CO10 9JR
Churches, chapels and meeting houses wishing to apply for grants can do so via the trust’s website at www.shct.org.uk