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Thefts from UK Churches so far in 2023...and it's not all Lead

Although we are only into the fifth month of this year so far and almost in the sixth, the country has been seeing an upward trend in not only lead thefts from church roofs, but also in the number of general break-ins and thefts experienced by places of worship.

Thieves have now started to use explosives to gain access to safes as their modus operandi becomes more sophisticated.

Damage caused by explosives used to gain access to the locked safe in the vestry of St Mary's Church, Wareham. Photograph:

"They cut the electrics in case the church had CCTV cameras and then broke into every locked door inside the church before finding the safe in a store room."
"Once inside they could open up the church and they went through trying all the locked doors and forcing them open. In the case of the vestry, they used an angle grinder to break the lock."

St Mary's Church, Wareham, Dorset - 14th April, 2023 -

Doncaster church's food bank theft caught on camera - 4th April, 2023 - St John The Evangelist Church in Balby, Doncaster - Story link Here

See the video below - Source: BBC

Lincoln Cathedral says it is "deeply saddened" after £700 worth of roses planted in memory of Prince Philip have been stolen from its grounds.

Around 35 rosebushes, planted on the East Green, were taken in broad daylight, which has "undone months of work" undertaken by the Cathedral's gardener.

Lincoln Cathedral 'deeply saddened' after £700 worth of rosebushes stolen from grounds - 20th April, 2023

Read the full story Click Here

Lincoln Cathedral

2023 has already seen over sixteen churches from over nine UK counties targeted so far with items such as silverware, lecterns, clothes and money being taken.

This is on top of leading church insurers stipulating that lead theft related insurance claims are up by 26% already in 2023, compared to 2022.

Woolverstone – Burglary at church - 18th April - - Click Here

New acquisitive crime emerges - an alert regarding theft from churches - 20th April, 2023 - Click Here

Church urged to be vigilant after Easter thefts - 21st April, 2023 - - Click Here

County churches urged to take precautions to prevent metal theft - 24th April, 2023 - Click Here

Silver church cross 'caked' in bleach after failed theft - 25th April, 2023 - - Click Here

Burglars 'try to break into church' and then target charity - 2nd May, 2023 - Click Here

Below are some of the UK churches targeted for theft so far this year.

St Mary's, Stainforth

South Yorkshire


​Cross, collection plate and music system taken

St John's, Keswick



​Silverware and money taken

St Gregory's, Hemingstone



Lectern taken

St Margaret's, Hawes

West Yorkshire


Silverware taken

St Wilfrid's, Wilford



​Silverware taken

St Leodegarius, Basford



Silverware taken

St Mary's, Bulwell



Silverware taken

All Saint's, Bulwell



Silverware taken

St Mary's, Plumtree



Attempted break-in

St Mary's, Burstall



Cross & Lectern taken

St Nicholas, Grainsby



Carved chairs, Book stand and clothes taken

​St John The Evangelist, Balby

South Yorkshire


Church food bank broken into

St Mary's, Hastings



Cross taken

St Mary's, Wareham



Silverware taken

St Michael’s, Woolverstone



Silverware taken

All Saint's, Bakewell



​Attempted theft from safe

​Swan Bank Methodist Church



Attempted break-in

Above; a map showing the ten counties hit by church break-ins and thefts in 2023

Below and for comparison; a map that shows the ten UK counties where our alarm has helped safeguard the lead and prevented valuable metal being taken from the church, 2022 to present day. Six of these have been in 2023.

South Yorkshire Church


​Lincolnshire Church


Durham Church


​Wiltshire Church


Northampton Church


West Yorkshire Church


Greater Manchester Church


Nottinghamshire Church


Norfolk Church


Dorset Church


Below are examples of the sort of items that are being taken in church break-ins and examples of the damage caused to the fabric of the buildings

A brass cross taken from St Mary's, Stainforth, South Yorkshire (Photo: Jacqui Jones)

Damage caused by a break-in at St John's, Keswick, Cumbria

More damage inside the church

Items taken from St John's, Keswick, Cumbria that were found by a dog in the church yard

Easter miracle as dog discovers St John's Church stolen silverware.

It's not all bad news however, as this news story shows Click Here.

A bag full of silverware that had been stolen from a church in Keswick has been sniffed out by a dog in the churchyard moments before the Easter Eve service was due to begin.

Lectern stolen from St Gregory's, Hemingstone, Suffolk

Book stand and cross taken from St Mary's, Burstall, Suffolk

Enquiries continue into thefts from Burstall church - April 23rd, 2023 - Click Here

Carved chair taken from St Nicholas, Grainsby, Lincolnshire

Brass book stand taken from St Nicholas, Grainsby

Cross taken from St Mary of the Sea, Hastings, Sussex

Cross covered in bleech - All Saint's, Bakewell, Derbyshire

Efforts made to break into the church safe - All Saint's, Bakewell, Derbyshire

Above and below; Items of silverware taken from St Michael's Church, Woolverstone, Suffolk

New acquisitive crime emerges - an alert regarding theft from churches - 20th April, 2023 - Story Click Here

Police are appealing after criminal damage was caused to a church in Beccles. - 25th April, 2023 - Click Here

Investigations are continuing into the attempted theft of silver and damage to a ceremonial cross at a Derbyshire church - 10th May, 2023 - Click Here

Criminal gang using explosives to blow up church safes across country - 12th May, 2023 - Click Here

Patching: St John's church organ pipe damaged. A historic church suffered damage when pipes from an organ worth £12,000 were targeted during break-in. - 24th May, 2023 - Click Here

Det Chief Supt Neil Taylor head of Opal, the National Intelligence unit for Organised Acquisitive Crime, said:

“The impact of this type of crime is significant. “Not only does it result in the loss of the metal and the subsequent cost of replacement but also causes upset and disruption to members of the community at their place of worship.”

Operation Dastardly Group guilty of lead thefts

May 2023 has also seen the sentencing of a Trio of lead thieves who caused havoc across the country between April and November 2016. Lead was stolen from a great number of churches up and down the country resulting in a seven-figure sum in damages in total.

Following a police operation, named Dastardly this month and investigations two of the gang were given custodial sentences and the other ordered to pay costs and complete a community service order for his part in the thefts.

Souldern's church was among those targeted by the thieves Picture: Lincolnshire Police (Image: Lincolnshire Police)

Laurentiu Rebeca (Left) a stripped church roof (Centre) and Gigi Prundaru (Right)

Break-ins and thefts are not the only crime that can involve churches and religious buildings. Arson and the deliberate setting of fires has also been prevalent within the last four years.

St Mark's, St John's Wood, London - January, 2023

2019 saw four churches in close proximity to each other in the Stratford area of London deliberately targeted with their front doors set alight and symbols carved into them in what was dubbed by the newspapers as a ‘Satanic Arson’ attack.

The doors of Cann Hall and Harrow Green Baptist church were burned in one of the attacks.

Photograph: Damien Gayle/The Guardian

Instances of Arson and deliberate fire setting at UK churches 2020 to 2023

January, 2023

St Mark's Church, St John's wood, London

​Cause of fire unknown, church destroyed

January, 2023

St Margaret's Church, Ilkley, Yorkshire

​Minor damage, entrance was set on fire

October, 2022

St John's Church, Purewell, Dorset

Church broken into and alter set on fire

July, 2022

Pitsmoor Christ Church, Yorkshire

Serious damage, police investigating as arson

December, 2020

All Saint's Church, Mackworth, Derbyshire

Majority of building damaged, roof collapse

October, 2020

St Matthew's Church, Darley Abbey, Derbyshire

serious damage caused by significant fire.

October, 2020

St Paul's Church, Quarndon, Derbyshire

Minor damage from small fire

The consequences of a fire can be overwhelming in terms of damage to property, injury and even potential loss of life. It can also mean months or years of closure while repairs are carried out. Services will have to be held in other buildings while outside user groups will be forced to find alternative premises, or will close down due to lack of facilities.

St John the Baptist Church in Royston, Hertfordshire suffered a fire in December 2018 and only reopened its doors four years later on 21st November 2022.

St John’s Church in Blackburn had to undergo £3.75million worth of restoration works starting in February 2022 following a fire there in 2019, which is still not complete.

Read E-Bound's article on churches and fire safety in our latest newsletter available on our website by clicking the following link Click Here

Here at E-Bound we offer a range of security products from Church Roof Alarms and Intruder Alarms to wooden-look smoke detectors and Fire detection beams. Click Here

Above: E-Bound wooden-look smoke detectors

Below: E-Bound Fire detection beam

Click Here to visit our website and see our products and services

E-Bound's Top fire tips for Churches:

1. Good Housekeeping – it is important that everything has its place and is preferably locked away, when not in use.

2. Waste Management – it is important that the management of rubbish is adhered to. All waste/rubbish must be cleared at the end of the day and the rubbish kept well away from the building.

3. Complete a fire self-risk assessment of your church, to try and minimise the fire risks. (A Copy of a blank self-risk assessment can be found at the end of this document published by Historic England and the institution of fire engineers. Fire Safety for Traditional Church Buildings of Small and Medium Size.)

4. Have a fire evacuation plan in place and ensure that everybody knows how it works.

5. Make sure nothing is blocking exit doors or any escape routes for the evacuation of the building.

6. Have E-Bound smoke detectors and fire beams fitted as part of a fire detection system that integrates with your roof alarm.

Church emergency strategy document

You can download the above blank template document for your church's emergency strategy by following this link Click Here


Why Churches?

There are several reasons why churches may be perceived as easy targets for theft:

  • Open and welcoming spaces: Churches are often open and welcoming spaces that encourage people to come in and spend time there. However, this also makes them vulnerable to theft, as there may not always be someone monitoring who comes in and out.

  • Valuable items: Churches may have valuable items, such as religious artifacts, artwork, or antique furnishings that may be tempting targets for thieves. These items may not always be adequately secured or protected.

  • Limited security: Many churches may not have the same level of security measures in place as other institutions, such as banks or museums. This may make them more vulnerable to theft.

  • Trusting nature: Churches are often built on the foundation of trust, forgiveness, and generosity. Unfortunately, this trusting nature may make it easier for thieves to take advantage of the situation.

What can you do?

Overall, it is important for churches to take steps to ensure the security of their spaces and valuable items. This may include installing security cameras, installing a roof alarm, or keeping valuable items in secure locations. The church of England and E-Bound advises the following:

Here are some simple steps that you can take to help protect your church from crime.

  • Lock your church after dark unless there is a service or someone present.

  • Lock any gates after dark to prevent vehicles from getting close to the building.

  • Keep keys safe with an official or in a secure place away from the church. Maintain a list of keyholders.

  • Protect high-value items. Secure items to the floor or wall or replace items with cheaper alternatives when services are not taking place.

  • Lock away valuables and money. Keep money, silver, brass and pewter items in a safe or secure area such as the vestry or a church officer's home.

  • Ensure any external items such as bins are locked away if possible. Items such as rubbish and garden waste bins can and have been used to not only gain access to church roofs, but also as a means of transporting lead that has just been stolen from a roof to a waiting vehicle.

  • Encourage congregation members and local residents are vigilant Engage with as many people as possible to be alert to any suspicious activity around the church.

  • Special precautions for works and scaffolding Ensure that you have informed your insurer that there are works and/or scaffolding around your church. Most insurers will insist that any scaffolding is fitted with a scaffold alarm, to try and prevent any access being gained to the building and roof via the scaffolding.

  • Download the E-Bound self-print pack and complete a risk assessment. Our handy form will guide you through completing a security risk assessment on your church. The free pack also includes other helpful documents (details of the pack below). Or you can follow the following Click link to download all the documents individually or in one zip-file.

You can also take sensible precautions to make sure that you are do not become a victim of financial crime or are accused of it.

  • Keep and monitor all receipts for deposits. Investigate any discrepancies immediately.

  • Divide responsibility for money. Appoint different officials for collecting, counting and banking. Make sure no one is left alone to count money.

Contact your Diocesan Advisory Committee if you are planning to install security measures to the building. Find out what permissions you’ll need.

  • Roof alarms

  • CCTV cameras

  • Window guards

  • New locks

  • Scaffold Alarm


E-Bound have produced a self-print pack of useful documents, to help you keep your church secure. These are free to download from our website Click here

Our Media page on our website also has other helpful information, videos and audio.

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