Lead thieves cost Hartlepool church £30,0000

Father Greame Buttery outside St Oswald's Church where lead was stolen from the roof recently.
Father Greame Buttery outside St Oswald's Church where lead was stolen from the roof recently.

A VICAR has slammed thieves who have stolen yet more lead from the roof of his church leaving the cost of repairs now at £30,000.

Father Graeme Buttery, from St Oswald’s Church, in Brougham Terrace, Hartlepool, is “hacked off” after repeated thefts of lead and says the constant stream of repairs due to crime diverts cash away from other issues the church faces.

The clergyman, who has been vicar at the church for eight-and-a-half years, said the latest crime took place overnight between Monday and Tuesday this week, when crooks peeled away the metal from around the front door of the church house, and also from around the vestry roof.

But it is not just the lead which will need to be replaced, as the offenders also cracked roof tiles and damaged brick work, and wood around the vicar’s front door.

The frustrated vicar, who has “good connections” with the community carrying out over 40 baptisms, up to 25 funerals and around 10 weddings a year, says he has had to stand buckets beneath holes in the vestry roof in case it starts to rain.

He told the Mail: “I got up and found that my house and my church had been attacked by lead thieves who have stolen the lead. They’ve stripped it down to the bare wood on the doorway at my house, and have cracked tiles and damaged brickwork on the church.

“We’ve had a series of thefts and are in the process of putting them right. The bill so far is at £28,000 so with the latest crime you can easily add another couple of thousand pounds to that.

“It’s just relentless and never-ending and is very wearing.”

The metal which has previously been stolen has been replaced with a lead substitute so that it is not attractive to thieves, who weigh it in at scrap yards for a “pittance”, said Father Buttery.

“We even had everything covered in Smart Water to put these people off but it hasn’t worked,” he said. “In September last year, they even stole a sign we had put up saying that the premises was protected by Smart Water.

“The insurers will cover most of the cost, but what’s left will have to come out of church funds, and we don’t have that much. Plus our insurance premiums will go up.”

He added: “I love my parishioners truly and 99 per cent of them are very supportive of the church. This is down to just one per cent of unfortunate folk, who might not even be from the Dyke House area.

“When this happens it makes the viability of the church a lot more difficult.”