Lead theft in churches is a common problem. In March this year, thieves stole a large amount of lead from St Michael’s Church roof in St Michael’s on Wyre. They ripped out three of the four valleys, including flashings, causing extensive damage to the slate roof, parapets and leaving water pouring into the church. The amount of damage caused was in excess of £50,000.
This was the second lead theft the church had experienced in the last five years and to replace the lead, like for like, seemed to simply supply the thieves with more fodder for the future. In the light of this, an alternative roofing material was sought: something similar to lead in appearance with a long life span, requiring little maintenance, and not a magnet for theft.
Terned stainless steel was put forward as the best option. This has the material benefits of lead but is also difficult to remove and has a lower re-sale value, making it less attractive to thieves.
The church is a Grade I listed building, dating back to the 13th Century and therefore permissions had to be sought from many organisations including Historic England (English Heritage) and Blackburn Diocese to make the change. The work included replacing the untouched valley to prevent the thieves returning. The repair work is now complete will hopefully protect the heads of the congregation for many years to come!