(Pictured is the church roof at St Andrew's in Billingborough after it was targeted in 2019)

There was some welcome news from Lincoln Crown Court this week as four lead thieves were convicted for a total of 20 years for lead theft from church roofs.

Their crimes spread far and wide across the country but they targeted many fine church buildings in Lincolnshire particularly hard. In the period January to December 2019 30 churches had lead roofs stolen resulting in approximately 2,300 metres squared of lead being taken. This caused an estimated £1.3 million pounds worth of damage.

The thieves were finally apprehended in early 2020 following a further three significant lead thefts including Pickworth St Andrew. This church has some of the finest medieval wall paintings in England and the removal of the roof has caused major damage to the artworks.

During this period the Church Buildings Team, and in particular Matthew Godfrey, have worked closely with Lincolnshire Police as they carry out their investigations. This included identifying vulnerable churches most at risk of lead theft and warning those parishes to be extra vigilant. The Diocese is very grateful for this close working partnership and the hard work and determination of the officers involved who helped to catch the culprits.

Following any lead theft the Church Buildings team are there to help the parishes to pick up the pieces and help them get their church roofs repaired and reinstated. The team has successfully put together a grant scheme to assist parishes with the installation of roof alarms and also help them with funding applications to get the roofs recovered in terne-coated stainless steel.

To date, ten churches have now had their roofs reinstated using a combination of insurance money and grant funding. They continue to work with a number of others to help them reach that goal. There is still work to do but they want everyone who has been affected by a theft to be assured that they will be in touch again if your church roof needs repair or replacement following lead theft.