The roof of St Luke’s Church has been vandalised by thieves who stole a small quantity of metal, smashing up parts of the roof and leaving ancient timbers open to the elements.
Recent heavy rain revealed the extent of the damage, with water pouring into the church. Volunteers now face the hard work of patching up the damage, which is believed to run into thousands of pounds.
The damage comes a year after Charlton House’s summer house was targeted by lead thieves – an attack which followed another bout of vandalism a year earlier.
Churchwarden Rick Newman told The Charlton Champion: “We’re not sure when the theft occurred in the days before it came to notice with the first rain in weeks and water pouring into the church. In ripping out galvanised metal from the central valley gutter and some ancient lead that ran the length of the south gutter, the thieves have broken countless tiles and exposed roof timbers to the elements.
“The lead in the south gutter had been anchored in place by the parapet. In order to steal the lead, several of these parapet blocks were smashed by the thieves. One massive block was toppled into the churchyard, causing further damage.
“Much of the metal was worthless. As scrap, the small quantity of lead would be worth a couple of hundred pounds at most; the cost of repairs will run into many thousands. Remedial work will require extensive and expensive scaffolding to say nothing about the cost of replacing tiles and masonry.
“Meanwhile, part of the churchyard has been cordoned off as a precautionary measure as parapet stones have been loosened. Temporary covering has been put in place as far as possible and we can only hope the weather is kind to us.
“The work that results from having to put right the extensive damage falls to volunteers. They would far rather be giving their time to things that are about building up and serving community at times of great need, rather than giving time to repairs that should never have been necessary.
“We are hopeful that most of the cost of repairs can be covered by insurance, but that results in ever increasing insurance premiums for all and a community unsettled by the actions of the few who seem to have no regard for others. Whether you regard St Luke’s as part of our local heritage or the house of God, or both, it is an important place for many who feel upset and unsettled by this crime. We pray for those responsible.”
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