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Norfolk Churches and metal theft, An eight year Retrospective.

Suspicious Activity and Lead Theft In Norfolk

Norfolk Police have reported an increase in incidents of attempted and successful lead theft at churches in south-west Norfolk.


E-Bound has around 50 churches in Norfolk with Roof Alarms installed and in April last year, E-Bound's Managing Director Angus Brown joined Chris Goreham on BBC Radio Norfolk's breakfast show to talk about church metal theft and roof alarms. The show was broadcast towards the end of a county wide campaign 'Stop the Roof Raiders', aimed at tackling metal thefts in the county.



The whole show and also a small section of the show are available to listen to on the main page of our website. Click Here

The radio show also featured in our latest E-Bound newsletter. Click Here


Two churches in the Fincham and Feltwell deanery have been victims in the past month. One of them is closely overlooked by neighbouring houses, but the thieves are bold and quick (and quiet).


 

In the first month of 2023, we have already seen reported suspect activity at St Clement's Church, Terrington St Clement where suspicious people were seen around the outside of the church and a lead theft at St German's Church in Wiggenhall.

(Image: Archant)


Norfolk still remains one of the country's hardest hit counties for metal theft.

In 2019-2020 Norfolk was joint top with 11 incidents of lead theft from churches, with the East of England being the region in the country hit the most with 1329 overall metal thefts.

Below you can see the locations in the county that have had the most reported instances of metal theft from 2017 - 2022.

Locations with two or more reported instances of metal theft in Norfolk 2017-2022

Norwich

​128

Great Yarmouth

40

Kings Lynn

28

Thetford

17

Bradon

12

Dereham

10

Wisbech

9

Swaffham

9

Long Stratton

6

Attleborough

5

Diss

4

Beccles

3

Scottow

3

Wymondham

3

Baconsthorpe

2

Beachamwell

2

Ingworth

2

Trowse

2

There were a further 61 reported Norfolk locations that experienced one instance of metal theft from 2017-2022. To see the remaining 61 locations. Click Here


Churches were the number one target for lead and copper thieves in Norfolk with 56 instances recorded during the time frame from 2017 to 2021.

 

A brief history of lead theft in Norfolk 2015-2022


Below are some more examples of church lead theft in Norfolk that occurred between 2015/16 and 2022.

2015



21st August, 2015 - ‘Norfolk church ravaged by lead thieves gets first grant to help rebuild’. A historic church which has been twice ravaged by roof raiders has received a welcome boost after a heritage group donated funds towards repairing the damage. St Peter’s Church at Merton, near Watton, was struck by thieves overnight between Thursday, August 21 and Friday, August 22, and the small village community is facing a £25,000 bill to fix it. Now church heritage group the Round Tower Churches Society has come forward to give £500 grant to get the fundraising under way.

Click Here for the original story. Source:roundtowers.org.uk



2016



March, 2016 - Norfolk Churches Trust Annual Report. Our Grants: making the difference.

The experience of St Mary’s church, Narford stands out for particular mention.

The Trust had offered £2,500 towards the cost of replacing lead stolen from the north aisle roof in 2014.The repairs were completed in April 2015 but within a week thieves struck twice removing the lead from both aisle roofs even before the Trust had issued the grant cheque. The aisles will now be repaired using an alternative material to reduce the likelihood of further thefts.

Click Here for the report. Pages 2-4 detail all the churches that applied for grants and the churches that were successful.



2nd June 2016 - Gang of 11 people steal lead from church roof in village near Wymondham Link


12th August, 2016 - Bronze crucifix stolen from Norwich church.

A bronze crucifix has been stolen from the war memorial of a Norwich city centre church in what police described as an 'abhorrent' theft.

Click Here and Here for the full story.

How the St Peter Mancroft war memorial originally looked. (Image: edp24.co.uk)



November 2016 - Pulham St Mary Church near Diss was hit by thieves who stripped the entire vestry and south aisle roof, leaving it with a £100,000 repair bill.

(Image Clayton Hudson)


23rd December, 2016 - Norfolk church leader left “devastated” by lead theft.

A church leader has today told how he is 'devastated' after raiders stripped lead from half a church in Toft Monks. Crooks removed a large area of lead from the roof of St Margaret's Church after they struck in the 'dead of night'. The Reverend Nicholas Will, rector of the church, said: 'We're devastated by it

Click Here for the full story.



2016 - St Marys Church in Carleton Forehoe has had most of the lead roof stolen.

Thieves broke in through a gate which has now been blocked to prevent anyone coming back. Click Here for the full story.

(Image Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2016)



2017



4th January, 2017 - Lead theft – future threats in parishes and parliament.

The need for awareness at local and national level of the potential threats.

Article by David Pocklington for lawandreligionuk.com

Click Here to read the full article.


April 2017 - Spate of church lead thefts in Norfolk cause thousands of pounds of damage. One of the churches, St Mary’s in Baconsthorpe, near Holt which was raided between April 26 and 28, causing around £40,000 worth of damage.

Norfolk Now reported on the thefts, a Click Here to view the video.


27th April, 2017 - Three arrested in connection with lead theft from church

Two men and a woman have been arrested on suspicion of lead theft from a church in Norfolk. Officers were called to St John the Baptist Church on Church Street in Coltishall around 9.30pm yesterday evening (Wednesday 26 April 2016), following reports of suspicious activity. A 20-year-old man was found on the roof of the church. He was arrested on suspicion of theft and being in possession of a bladed article.

Click Here for the full story. Source: itv.com


30th September, 2017 - Man admits being in gangs behind lead thefts from Norfolk churches after being caught following police chase. Remus Tudorache admitted he was involved in one gang which stripped church roofs for lead in 2015 but then he joined another set-up which was operating this year - until it was smashed when police arrested four members after a chase near Wisbech.

Click Here for the full story.


Eastern Daily Press article on the April-May, 2017 thefts.


10th November, 2017 - "Romanian lead-thief could be deported".

A ROMANIAN man was sentenced to five years in prison last Friday after he helped two gangs to steal lead worth more than £100,000 from rural churches.

Remus Tudorache, aged 27, admitted conspiring to steal lead from church roofs between March and May this year, and between April and May 2015.

Click Here for the full story.


8th December, 2017 - "New church alarm helps police to arrest two in connection with lead theft". A newly installed alarm helped police officers to arrest two men on suspicion of lead theft. Officers attended St Nicholas Church, on Church Street, Wells at around 3.55am on Friday after the alarm was triggered. When they arrived they found two men, aged 23 and 26, in a vehicle outside the church. Click Here for the full news story.



2018




6th March, 2018 - Historic England article on metal theft by By Dr Louise Grove, Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Social Policy, Loughborough University.

Click Here for the full article.



July, 2018 - Norfolk church targeted by lead thieves receives £95,000 Lottery grant.

A north Norfolk church twice targeted by lead thieves has received a £95,000 National Lottery grant. Thieves stole up to six tons of lead from St Mary's Church in Baconsthorpe, near Holt, in March 2017 and when they returned in April they caused £40,000 worth of damage. Click Here for the full story.

The roof at Baconsthorpe church after the lead theft. Picture: Pat Cubitt (Image: Archant)


27th September, 2018 - Oulton. Men seen checking out the roof. Posing as contractors/workmen. Multiple attempts in day light. No damage found to the roof after checking.


1st October, 2018 - Theft of lead from St Margaret's Church, Saxlingham. Lead from the vestry roof was stolen.


Source and picture credit: www.nicholaswarns.com



2nd October, 2018 - Thieves steal Houghton Conquest church's lead roof.

"Audacious" thieves have stolen an entire lead roof from a Grade I-listed church.

About 20 tonnes of lead was taken from All Saint's Church, Houghton Conquest, Bedfordshire, over "a prolonged period of time", police said.

Click Here for the full story.

Plastic sheeting has now been placed on the roof by builders to protect it from the elements.

Photo credit: Gary Mudd



21st December, 2018 - Hevingham. Two sensors smashed on the church roof. Alarm activated and scared off the culprits.



2019


The issue of metal theft, especially from church roofs, has been a hot topic all year. Most recently the Telegraph reported that Historic England have calculated around 40% of churches in rural areas have been targeted by thieves.

- Church of England DAC conference Annual Report 2019 -



January 2019 - Old Catton. Attempted theft of lead from church roof. Alarm activated and perpetrators fled. No damage found to roof no lead taken.




September, 2019 - Incidents of lead theft at Norfolk's churches have halved in the past two years, thanks to an innovative security scheme to protect against roof raiders.

It had been hoped that 50 alarms could be installed on some of the county's most vulnerable churches as part of the Roof Alarm Scheme, which is backed by the Eastern Daily Press. Click Here for the full news story.


Initiative to alarm and protect church buildings helps in the fight against crime

Case Study St Nicholas Church, North Lopham St Nicholas Church in North Lopham were preparing to host a family fun day with lots of free activities to keep children amused during half term. However, the day before Richard Vere, the Churchwarden, discovered that thieves had stripped half the lead from the church roof during the night. PCC Secretary, Jennie Vere, said: “We are so lucky that the weather was dry that week if it had rained we may have had to cancel the festival and hundreds of hours of volunteers time would have been wasted and a family fun day ruined for the community. St Nicholas Church is visible to neighbours and passing traffic, and is very close to a busy road through the village. If thieves are brazen enough to take the lead from somewhere so visible, then nowhere is safe!”


Click Here for the full news story from norfolk-pcc.gov.uk



September, 2019 - "Roof alarm success but plea for more funds".

Thefts of lead from Norfolk’s churches have halved in the past two years – thanks to the roof alarm scheme. A £250,000 fund has enabled 70 of the most vulnerable churches to be protected by the Roof Alarm Scheme. Initially, it was planned to install 50 alarms when the scheme was launched two years ago by the Diocese of Norwich.

Click Here for the full news story.


24th November, 2019 - Grants of £74,000 awarded to repair Norfolk churches

Grants to carry out urgent repairs at 15 churches have been made by the Norfolk Churches Trust. It has awarded a total of £74,000 including three grants of £10,000 each to churches at Blickling, near Aylsham; Little Cressingham, near Swaffham and Beeston-next-Mileham, near Dereham. The trust has highlighted the estimated £12.7m needed for repairs at more than 50 churches across the county at its latest quarterly meeting. The grant to St Andrew's Church, Blickling, will help towards the £60,000 needed for repairing the roof following the lead theft in 2016.

Click Here for the full story.



2020



14th February, 2020 - "Thieves strike twice in a week to steal church lead"

Police have encouraged churches to take appropriate counter-measures within their budget in light of two separate lead theft incidents in West Norfolk this week.

St Georges Church at Gooderstone and St Edmund’s Parish Church in Downham were both targeted by thieves within the space of four days. Click Here for the full news story


February, 2020 - Four churches in west Norfolk have been targeted by lead thieves in the past two weeks. St Edmunds, Downham Market, lost an estimated £30,000 of lead from the south aisle. Thieves struck in the early hours of Wednesday, February 12.But three further churches have either lost lead or attempts have been made in the last fortnight. Click Here for the full news story


15th April. 2020 - New law will crack down on sinners who steal from churches

This month Marian Cristian Nitu became the first person in England and Wales to fall foul of a crackdown on heritage crime after he was jailed for nearly three years under new sentencing guidelines which ask courts to impose tougher punishments for thefts affecting historic buildings or objects. Metal theft: Considered to be the single most damaging area of heritage crime; 6,700 churches and 42 historic properties have been targeted by metal thieves in the last five years at a cost of nearly £12.5m. The stripping of lead and copper from roofs leaves buildings open to damp and widespread damage.

Click Here for the full story.




July 2020 - More than £1/2m grants given for emergency church repairs in Norfolk by the Norfolk Churches Trust.


£750 AWARDED March 2020 To repair lead roof due to lead theft and consequential damage. Minor roof repairs resulting from recent storm damage.

£2,000 AWARDED July 2020 Repair of south aisle roof using terne coated steel, following lead theft in the Spring. Photo – courtesy of Simon Knott, @last_of_england

£3,000 AWARDED July 2020 Re-thatching south side of the roof, and repairs following the consequential damage from lead theft.

Click Here for the full story and Here




2021



21st February, 2021 - St Mary’s, Beachamwell - The leaded roof to the aisle was stolen in May 2019 will be replaced with a new lead roof in mid-2021. The theft of the lead roof caused a significant shock to the village community. Fortunately, its replacement was covered by an insurance claim. Click Here for the full news story.


11th November, 2021 - Is Your Church in Norfolk Safe and Secure?

Every 70 minutes, a crime is committed at a church or graveyard in Britain. Since 2017, theft, arson, and drug trafficking are among the 19,493 crimes reported on church properties since January 2017, which works out to a rate of 19 crimes per day nationwide. Yet, church security may be something you’ve never considered.

However, according to 40 of the 45 UK police forces, the range of crimes being committed on church property since 2019 includes:

  • 2,490 cases of violence

  • 4,162 of criminal damage

  • And, 7,206 thefts

Click Here for the full article.



2022



27th April, 2022 - Churches warned to be vigilant for renewed lead theft risk.

Soaring metal prices has seen churches warned to step up vigilance against organised gangs of thieves. Click Here for the full story.



July 2022 - All Saints' Church, Woodton. Lead thieves target Norfolk village church with links to Lord Nelson.

Picture All Saints' Church, Woodton (Image: Archant)


October, 2022 - "Roof alarm success – Campaign to prevent church lead thefts needs more funds to install alarms" - The Norfolk Churches Trust

Thefts of lead from Norfolk’s churches have halved in the past two years – thanks to the roof alarm scheme. A £250,000 fund has actually enabled 70 of the most vulnerable churches to be protected by the Roof Alarm Scheme. Initially, it was planned to install 50 alarms when the scheme was launched two years by the Diocese of Norwich.

Click Here for the full news story.


25th October, 2022 - "Organised crime gangs 'fuelling rise in heritage crimes', police warn". Thefts of lead and metal from churches are among the biggest threats to historic buildings, but raids on archaeological sites are also a big problem.

Click Here for the full news story.


25th October, 2022 - Norfolk church wins national award - and £10k grant to save roof

All Saints Church in Wilby won the Friends Award at the National Church Awards.

The medieval Anglican church is the smallest of seven parishes in the Quidenham area.

Friends of the National Churches Trust vote on who they want to win the grant of four short-listed churches. All Saints Church will receive the additional grant of £10,000 to add to its previous grant award.

Click Here for the full story.


14th November, 2022 - Watlington: E-Bound engineers attended the church on October 17, 2022 and were informed by the church warden that there had been an attempted theft from the church the early hours of Monday 14 November 2022. The customer stated that the alarm ‘Worked perfectly’ and did its job as the perpetrators fled the scene.



November, 2022 - Crime figures released.

Figures from December 2019 to November 2022 show that there was 4,003 incidents that fall under the crime category 'Theft - Other'. This is the current category that metal thefts are recorded under.



Crime Rate Per 1,000 Residents - Theft-Other for Norfolk

2018

6

​2019

4.6

​2020

4.6

2021

4.4


The above figures show that between 2018 and 2021 the Theft-Other category was on a downward trend for the county of Norfolk.





November, 2022 - "The Roof Alarm Scheme"

To combat the threat of church lead thefts the Bishop of Norwich, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk, the Norfolk Churches Trust, Allchurches Trust and the Round Tower Churches Society have been working together to find a long-term solution and have created The Roof Alarm Scheme. Click here for the full story.


12 December, 2022 - Gate stolen from St Margaret's Church in Burnham Norton.

Click Here for the full news story.


St Edmund's Church, Downham Market

Picture: Sarah Hussain (Image: Archant)



Picture: Steve Adams (Image Copyright: Archant Norfolk 2015)



Crime prevention and security

The church of England have set out advice on their webpage for security and crime prevention.



Its not just metal theft that affects churches and places of worship.


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