Since the introduction of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act in October 2013 over 40 churches has been hit in Norfolk and Suffolk causing the British Metals Recycling Association to label the counties areas of ‘real concern’.

The county of Norfolk contains the greatest concentration of medieval churches in the world, of 921 built 699 remains. The beautiful buildings, created thanks to the great wealth generated by the trade in wool, contains hundreds of medieval works of art. One such church, St Mary Church, Narford, had the lead on its south and north aisle roofs stolen and now need to raise £ 25,000 to restore the roofs and a further £ 3000 to install an alarm system. This is an immense task in a village with a population of only 25.

An even smaller congregation of four will have to fund an estimated repair bill of £15000 after the lead on the south nave roof of their 12th century church of All Saints at Twait, was ripped off in November 2015.  The village of Barsham, with a population of just over 200, had lead worth at least £10,000 taken from the parish church of All Saints.

The tale of destruction continues in the St Remigius Church, Hethersett, where lead stripped of the roof caused heavy rain to damage and disrupt the inside of the building. A slate roof section had just been repaired, largely funded by the community, now the congregation will have to fundraise again to keep the church open for baptisms, weddings and funerals.

Depressingly similar stories in Suffolk inspired two local newspapers, the East Anglian Daily Times and sister paper the EDP, to offer an award of £26,000 to help protect the county’s historic churches. In addition, the Rt Rev Martin Seeley, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, said the diocese would be adding £2,000 to the campaign to stop this devastating crime.

Raising funds to replace stolen lead is a long running task impacting hugely on a community. St Nicholas church, Walcot, Lincolnshire after a theft in 2011 and an insurance payout, still needs to find £10000 to pay for all the work. The small village has only 18 houses.

Despite a fall in price since 2013, lead is still an attractive source of income for criminals. No cost for raw materials, and a few hours work in the night, brings in enough to compensate for the risk of being caught. And if caught, the police with mounting  pressure on their resources, will have the task of gathering enough evidence to prosecute the culprits.

According to the International Lead Association, the UK in 2012 recycled 155K ton/year which, with a total usage of 228K ton/year, means that 73K ton was imported to meet demand. The likelihood is that stolen lead finds it way into the recycling UK industry. Transporting stolen lead across the UK border would be an added expense for the criminal.

The unique Trace-in-Metal Lead Roof Protection system will provide the necessary evidence law enforcing agencies needs to identify stolen lead and help scrap metal dealers reject Trace-in-Metal marked metal. With markers staying in the lead for its lifetime, indeed survive the melting of lead, they act as a strong deterrent in the scrap metal food chain. If stolen lead can’t be sold it will not be stolen. Trace-in-Metal can help communities keep the lead where it belongs - on the roof protecting our cultural heritage.

Pictured: 

Top: Levenham, Courtesy Church Warden Graham Pattrick

Bottom: Stratford St. Marys, Courtesy James Hazell