Over the past few weeks the Churches Team has been receiving reports of another serious wave of metal theft, which has affected a great number of churches in the Diocese of Gloucester. This is not just a local problem. We are aware that our neighbouring dioceses have seen the problem escalating too. Thefts appear to be well planned, possibly by the same individuals, and it is unlikely that they are carried out ad hoc.
We ask that you report all identified metal theft attempts to the Police, your Archdeacon and DAC Secretary Adam Klups, including the failed ones. When contacting the police it is important to emphasise the loss or damage to heritage caused by the crime in addition to the value of the stolen metal. Sentences for heritage crime offences are longer than for ordinary theft or loss of property.
Over the past days Adam has been in touch with Gloucestershire Police and its Rural Crime Team, Historic England’s Head of Heritage Crime and Policing Advice, the National Church and colleagues at neighbouring dioceses and will meet Gloucestershire Police in the coming days to discuss an integrated preventive strategy between the Diocese and the Police. Any useful conclusions will be shared with clergy and PCCs, but feel free to contact Adam to share your experience, as well as comments on what advice and preventive measures from the Police and the DAC your church community would benefit from.
We ask churchwardens and clergy to be extra vigilant at this time. Please bring the matter to the attention of your local town and parish councils, get in touch with the church’s neighbours; especially those whose houses overlook the church, and those who are likely to pass it on a regular basis, and make sure they know who to contact if they identify any suspicious activity in or around the church.
Many will have seen the recent media story about All Saints’ Church in Houghton Conquest, near Bedford, which was recently deprived of 20 tonnes of roof lead. While traditionally it was the churches in more isolated locations that were under the greatest risk and most badly affected by theft, the Houghton Conquest thieves posed as workmen over a number of days and uninterrupted by the local residents living only yards from the church, they stole vast amounts of metal before the parish realised what happened.
Please ensure that access to church roofs is restricted. Make sure that ladders are stored out of sight and locked away, if possible. Double check that access to roofs from the inside of your church is disabled to unauthorised persons. Please carry out a visual inspection of your metal roofs regularly to prevent any rainwater damage. Sometimes thefts go unnoticed for days or weeks. Bear in mind that thieves do not only target large metal roof sheets found on nave roofs, but also lead flashings, lead gutters and smaller roofs, such as turret roofs. Copper roofs are just as vulnerable. Remember that metal theft may not be instantly obvious, but its consequences for the church fabric could be catastrophic.
If your church has a metal roof, please familiarise yourself with the recently updated guidance on metal theft from historic buildings by Historic England, available at:
In addition, Historic England’s notes on Tackling Heritage Crime can be found here: https://heritagecalling.com/2018/03/06/tackling-heritage-crime/
If you have any specific concerns about the security of your metal roofs, please contact your Church Insurer. Please note that if your insurance cover is with Ecclesiastical they will only offer you unlimited cover for theft of metal claims if you have a roof alarm and SmartWater applied. Installing a roof alarm is a List B matter and can be authorised by your Archdeacon. If you are unsure about the details of your policy and your church has a metal roof, please contact your insurer to stay up to date with their current requirements.
Guidance from Ecclesiastical, including a list of approved roof alarm suppliers can be found here:
Information on what the National Church is doing to prevent metal theft can be accessed here: