An Anglican vicar is having to sleep in his church at night to deter thieves trying to steal lead from the roof during a major repair project.
The repairs are being carried out on Holy Trinity Church, in Woodland Road, Darlington, after it raised £420,000 in grants and donations but the building has been attacked by thieves, once in July and once in August. On both occasions, a very small amount of lead was removed but not taken away.
Priest-in Charge, the Venerable Nick Barker, also the Archdeacon of Auckland, said: “We have an excellent roof burglar alarm system, on which we are putting extra sensors, and a very good security patrol company, Sparta Security, working for us. On both occasions we think that the thieves must have been disturbed.
“However, I have been sleeping in the church over the past fortnight to provide added peace of mind in case they try again.
“This has left me feeling cross and frustrated. There is only a minimal amount of lead on the roof but thieves can soon do a very costly amount of damage for little reward. We are an active church trying to do something positive for the community yet we find ourselves targeted by thieves.
“It means that some of the money that people kindly donated to the project has had to go on improved security.
“I am also concerned that the people trying to steal the lead are putting themselves at risk. It is dangerous to climb on the roof at night, in the dark.”
Holy Trinity Church was built in 1836 and work is under way to tackle dry rot and repair the 175-year-old roof as well as making the church more accessible for community groups and events. The scaffolding will come down in mid-October with internal work due to be finished by Christmas.
The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) provided a £250,000 grant for the work, while the church raised the rest, including £70,000 in legacies.
Grade II* listed Holy Trinity appears on English Heritage’s Places of Worship at Risk register and was originally built as a chapel after railways brought more people to Darlington.