Lead theft from churches has again become a scourge in England, having abated for some years. It is a particular problem in the East Midlands and East Anglia, where there are a great many late medieval churches with lead-covered roofs of low pitch. In Kent church roofs are more often of steeper pitch and covered with peg tiles but lead is frequently used to cover aisle and porch roofs and, of course, for flashings and there has been a significant number of thefts in the last year. Apart from the loss of the roof covering, such thefts can inflict severe damage on the adjacent fabric if the lead is ripped away; and water ingress can cause havoc inside the building. Payments by insurers do not always cover the cost of repair and may not be made at all if there are repeated thefts. The congregation of any church with a significant amount of lead roofing which does not install an alarm is taking a great and unnecessary risk.
Installing a roof alarm is not only a strong deterrent but also has the benefit of potentially reducing insurance premiums and increasing compensation, especially in the event of a second theft. Your insurer will have further details.
As mentioned in last year’s annual report, the Allchurches Trust (which is linked to Ecclesiastical Insurance, England’s main insurer of churches) is offering grants for the installation of roof alarms, a scheme administered by the Friends on behalf of Allchurches. Because the take-up has been rather poor, Allchurches have increased the maximum grant they will give to half the cost of the alarm up to a limit of £2,500. In addition, The Friends will also make a grant usually of £2,000, but depending on the cost to the church.
The application form is on the Friends’ website. There is no deadline for applications, they can be made throughout the year.
Key points to note are that the alarm and supplier must be approved by your insurer, you must have denominational approval and you must undertake to maintain the alarm annually for five years. Although the intention is to protect lead roofs the grants are not limited to churches with lead roofs and any type of roof material can attract a grant.
We have written to the Archdeacons in both the Canterbury and Rochester dioceses drawing attention to the availability of these grants and Ecclesiastical have written to all the churches which they insure in Kent. So far we have made or promised grants to only three churches: St Mary, Chalk; St Peter, Folkstone; and St Mary, Great Chart and we would encourage all churches considering installing an alarm to contact us as soon as possible, as the Allchurches’ grant is time-limited.