Churchgoers in the village of Hougham say they are ‘sickened’ following the theft of a huge amount of lead from their church roof.
Thieves struck in the early hours of Saturday morning, stripping the lead off the roof of All Saints and also breaking off large chunks of masonry from the building, which dates back to the 10th century in its earliest form.
The Hougham theft is just one of several similar cases reported in recent days, with churches at Brant Broughton and Aswarby also having their roofs stripped of lead.
A remembrance service on Sunday had to be cancelled at Hougham. The church will remain closed until December 11 when Communion will be held.
Hougham church warden Ray Beal told the Journal that the thieves must have staked out the church before the theft because they managed to get round the building’s security system.
The thieves also caused damage inside the church, which was soaking wet as rain got in through the damaged roof.
Mr Beal added: “It made me feel sick and very angry. Everybody is sickened by it. I do not think they did this off the hoof. They must have been round prior to it to work out how to get round the alarm system.”
Mr Beal said the roof of the church has now been made secure and waterproof, but added: “Inside the church it was like a lake. All the wooden seats and the kneelers are wet. I don’t know how long it will take to dry. Inside it’s like a wasteland.
“Fortunately, we are insured but I haven’t got a clue how much all this will cost. There is the question of the masonry as well, which is a job in itself. They have taken all the lead from the north aisle.”
Inspector Gary Stewart, of Lincolnshire Police, said: “We are currently investigating this theft and would like to hear from anyone who saw anything suspicious near the church during the evening.
“You may have seen vehicles parked next to it or someone carrying tools as if they were working on it, or maybe heard sounds coming from the church.
“If this is the case, please contact Lincolnshire Police by calling 101, quoting incident number 106 of November 12, and help us catch those responsible.”
This is not the first time All Saints has been targeted – thieves struck four years ago, with about £30,000 worth of lead stolen. Three men pleaded guilty to stealing lead from more than 20 churches in the area.
In this current spate, thieves also ripped sheets of lead from the north aisle roof of Aswarby Church on Friday night while parishioners were away at a fund-raising event at Belton Park Golf Club to supplement a Lottery funding bid to repair the rest of the roof and the damaged spire.
On CCTV, thieves in two vans, possibly Mercedes Sprinters, were seen to park up outside Aswarby, moving in between 3am and 4am to load up the lead, damaging stonework in the process. Anyone with information should contact police on 101, quoting incident 99 of November 12.
Parish priest the Rev Nick Munday said: “All our churches are listed buildings and they are sacred. Our church has been violated.”
Meanwhile, last Tuesday night, St Helen’s Church in Brant Broughton was hit in the same way, losing most of its north aisle roof.
The Rev Alison Healey said her churchwarden discovered the theft. She said: “She saw chunks of stone had fallen down and looked up to see most of the north aisle roof had been taken.
“It has been sheeted over for now, which is all we can do. It is just heartbreaking for parishioners.”
Anybody with information is asked to call 101, quoting incident 80 of November 10.