St Mary’s Church community in Combs, Stowmarket distraught after £3,000 of lead stolen from roof
- Credit: Sarah Lucy brown
Church staff and parishioners at St Mary’s Church in Combs, near Stowmarket, have been left distraught after £3,000 of lead was stripped and stolen from the church roof.
Reverend Chris Childs and volunteer Hayley Homyer found skidmarks in the Grade I listed medieval church’s yard yesterday morning, and saw damage to the stonework at the side of the building.
After looking down at the roof from the church tower, the pair found a series of lead tiles had been stolen, which will cost the church an estimated £150,000 to replace.
“I was devastated, I couldn’t stop crying,” said Miss Homyer, after she saw the damage.
“I was shocked to see the damage and it will have a huge impact on the church community.”
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The issue was made even worse when yesterday’s downpours meant waterproofing work to the roof had to be hastily carried out, with tarpaulins laid out in the church to prevent any water damage.
Rev Childs confirmed that the funueral due to take place there today would go ahead as planned.
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As part of a campaign across Suffolk to prevent lead roof thefts, the lead was identity marked to St Mary’s Church, but Miss Homyer admitted there was only “A slim chance” that it would result in them getting it back.
Work to fully replace the roof may take as long as five years to complete, with a serious amount of fundraising needed to help fund the repairs.
However, concerns had been raised that more lead could be stolen, or other churches in the area could be a target, prompting security measures to be ramped up.
Rev Childs continued: “There is concern so extra security measures are being put in place, and police have offered to step up patrols.”
John Howard, spokesman for the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, added: “We are concerned to see an increase in lead thefts.
“We have seen a cluster on the road between Bury St Edmunds and Haverhill and now this latest one too where £3,000 worth of lead was stolen, which we estimate will cost between £100,000 and £150,000 to repair the damage.
“The church will receive about £7,500 from the insurance company towards this so this is a huge mountain for this community to climb.
“There are however alternative materials that can be used to replace lead which can be explored. The police are aware and we are working closely with officers.
“Our advice to parochial church councils is please be vigilant but do not tackle intruders yourself, always ring 999.”
A spokeswoman from Suffolk police said they believed the incident happened between 12.30pm on Sunday and 7am yesterday, with anyone who saw or heard anything suspicious urged to contact police on 101, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.