Living God's Love Values - Generosity, Joy, Imagination and Courage
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Lead roof at Furneux Pelham targeted twice by thieves

Lead roof at Furneux Pelham targeted twice by thieves

St Mary’s Church, Furneux Pelham, Hertfordshire is facing a six-figure repair bill after thieves targeted the lead roof twice in two days.  The thieves fled after being disturbed by a member of the local community on their second attempt, highlighting the importance of vigilance from near neighbours and congregations.

The East Herts Rural Policing Team described the thefts from the church, which dates back to the late 1100s, as “challenging and upsetting”, and officers have issued a warning to other churches in the diocese.

Meanwhile, All Saints Church in Houghton Conquest, Bedfordshire are facing a colossal task of a £300,000 fundraising campaign after their roof was similarly targeted in October 2018.  Their insurance payout was just £15,000 rather than the full cost of repair.  Once again this highlights the importance of installing roof alarms and fulfilling all SmartWater conditions in order to ensure full insrance payout if the worst happens.  Further advice is listed below.

Photo credit: East Herts Rural Police

Take action to protect your church’s roof

The huge rise in metal thefts recently is thought to be the work of a number of highly organised and expert gangs, so this really is the time to bump up security and preventative actions to the top of churches’ to-do lists and make this a priority for everyone.

Lead theft is the number one security threat facing churches, but there are a number of straightforward steps that everyone can take to avoid becoming a target and to ensure a full insurance payout if the worst happens:

  1. Think like a thief and stay vigilant

Take a good look at your church through the eyes of a potential thief – how would you get up on to the roof? Where would you park?  Make regular checks and use common sense – don’t leave ladders or wheelie bins around, try to restrict access for vehicles to get close to the buildings overnight.

People are one of the most useful security assets – everyone in a congregation can report anything that looks unusual or suspicious (there may be a ‘neighbourhood watch’ type contact in your church already; you may want to agree a designated mobile number to contact).

Churches are encouraged to let people know if there is planned building work happening, so that they know whether there are supposed to be people on the roof or not.  The parish newsletter, local Facebook groups, school newsletters and so on might also provide ways of asking the local community to help by keeping vigilant too.


Your church’s PCC can take some straightforward steps to improve security and ensure any potential insurance claim covers the full cost of repairs in the event of a theft:

  1. Apply a forensic marker such as SmartWater

SmartWater is a condition of insurance: SmartWater must be applied to a metal roof otherwise there will be no insurance payout in the event of a theft. You must have registered its use and have warning notices displayed.  SmartWater will give you a total insurance cover of £15,000 for the replacement of the metal roof and making good the damage caused.  This inexpensive and straightforward procedure should be top of your church’s to-do list if it isn’t already in place: read more information on SmartWater from Ecclesiastical Insurance

  1. Apply for a grant to purchase a roof alarm

If your church has a significant area of lead or copper – say covering an aisle, chancel or nave – then it should be protected by a roof alarm as well as SmartWater. Not only will this help deter thieves, but it will give you your full insurance policy cover for the cost of replacing the metal roof and making good the damage. Grants are available towards the cost of installing a roof alarm – ask David Bevan at for the latest information.  Click here for information about applying for grants for roof alarms, insurance and security

Without both SmartWater and a roof alarm, any insurance payout will be restricted to £15,000 rather than the full cost of repair, which could run into six-figure sums, so do protect your church as a matter of urgency.


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