Lead thieves causing more damage to Charlton’s listed buildings

Charlton Summer House
The Summer House, with St Luke’s to the left

During the summer, we reported on lead thieves causing damage at St Luke’s Church in Charlton Village. Now two other listed buildings in the village – the Summer House and the Assembly Rooms – have been vandalised by ham-fisted thieves who have caused thousands of pounds of damage while trying to get hold of lead, some of it degraded.

It remains unclear whether they will be able to cover the damage on insurance – a major setback to efforts to restore the buildings. Thieves have also targeted St Richard’s church hall in Swallowfield Road.

The Charlton Society‘s RODEN RICHARDSON looks at why each building is important – and explains the damage done.

The Summer House
With its uniquely classical proportions, this 17th century Grade I protected gem of a building is part of the Charlton House Estate and hence in the care of the Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust, which has recently been carrying out much-needed repair and restoration work. The spectacular curvilinear roof is covered in fine, graded slate tiles, with lead flashing along its 4 curved ridges. After storms in January 2018 and tree damage to the roof, the existing and unsatisfactory asbestos felt flashing was replaced with conservation-standard lead.

However, it wasn’t long before this was torn from all four ridges by thieves in a single operation. It was all replaced in early September this year at a cost running into five figures – a sum vastly greater than the stolen lead. But then, at 2am a few days later, the thieves attacked again. No doubt expecting another easy haul, this time they didn’t reckon with an alarm that had by now been installed and they only got as far as partially lifting a short section of the flashing on a single roof ridge, which the Trust was able to repair by the following evening.

Charlton Assembly Rooms
The damage done to the Assembly Rooms

Assembly Rooms
Completed in 1881 in red, handsomely decorative brick and terracotta, the Assembly Rooms were a gift to the local community from the Maryon Wilson family, the former owners and last occupants of Charlton House. Recently Grade II listed, and now the responsibility of the Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust, the Assembly Rooms remain a great community asset which might have been lost if that same community hadn’t saved them from demolition in the 1970s. A highly ambitious restoration project at the time, one of the key tasks was to replace the domed, multi-facetted roof cupola. This highly skilled work was undertaken at a local college by students specialising in the traditional materials and techniques required. The cupola’s dome is covered in lead, and this has now become the Village’s most recent target for attack by lead thieves.

As the picture shows, they managed to prise some of the lead away until they were either caught in the act or because it was more difficult to remove than anticipated. Once again, the value of the lead is minimal when compared to the cost of restoration and repair work, which also involves the base of the cupola structure, the fine tiled roof that the thieves scaled to reach their objective and serious rainwater damage to the parquet flooring inside the Rooms, which, like Charlton House, have been closed since the onset of Covid-19.

Edward Schofield, visitor and operations manager at the trust, says that the attack comes at a time when the charity is working towards ways of safely and reliably reopening the trust’s buildings to the community. “This criminal damage goes beyond the basic theft of materials – apart from the disruption, the overall repair and replacement costs, not least for the extensive scaffolding required, will be considerable.”

St Luke’s
Built in 1630 – a little before Christopher Wren’s Royal Observatory a couple of miles or so away on the same escarpment – historic St Luke’s is one of London’s most compelling and attractive parish churches. Not immediately visible to the eye from the outside, the roof has two ridges forming a valley and it is from here and the gulley at the side that thieves ripped out lead coverings, causing extensive damage in the process, including to the interior fabric of the building. Churchwarden Rick Newman confirms that the amount stolen was minimal but that the cost of repair will run into the tens of thousands of pounds, considerably more than the limits imposed on claims for what is being deemed as “metal theft”. St Luke’s has ambitious plans for the repair and upkeep of the building – important and essential work on the unique castellated tower has already been completed – but with other works required, this theft and vandalism is a major setback.

It has just been discovered that lead has now also been torn from above the main porch and side door to St Richard’s Church Centre at the corner of Swallowfield and Sundorne Roads. Rick Newman describes the crime as “a frustrating addendum to the current epidemic of lead thefts in Charlton”.

For more information on The Charlton Society, visit charltonsociety.org.

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Crime in Charlton: What’s being done?

The tailor’s showroom in Charlton Village was ram-raided in April

Greenwich Council is to set up a working group aimed at combatting the recent increase in crime in and around Charlton.

Worries about crime in the area have escalated in recent months following a number of high-profile incidents, including the ram-raiding of a tailor’s shop on The Village in April. In addition, there have been a number of anecdotal reports of incidents in streets close to Charlton station.

The Charlton Champion does not regularly feature crime reports – but we would like to play our part in combating crime without whipping up fear, so we have asked the local police if we can be sent crime advice and alerts.

We’re grateful to Charlton ward councillor Gary Dillon for passing on these briefing notes from a meeting held by the council last week to discuss the issue. We’ve edited them slightly for clarity and to remove information that may be sensitive.

If you have concerns about crime in your area, you can contact your ward councillors.

On the Met Police website, you can see current stats on crime for Charlton ward, get advice and voice your concerns. (See also Peninsula, Woolwich Riverside and Kidbrooke with Hornfair wards.)

And you are the victim of crime or have any information, you can contact the police online or call 101 (999 in an emergency).


The Charlton ward has seen an increase in crime and disorder over the last few months. Businesses in the locality have been particular targets. As a result, the incidents have had a significant negative impact on the community.

This briefing will address:

– Activities undertaken to date in response to crime incidents and concerns.

– Ways forward to reduce and prevent further incidents to the best of our ability by working in collaboration with key stakeholders.

The aim is not only to decrease crime and disorder but to also enhance reassurance and confidence in those who live, work and visit Charlton.

***

The top three crimes in the Charlton ward are burglary, violence and vehicle crime. There are no specific hotspot areas identified as incidents have occurred across the ward. A recent meeting held on 4 July revealed that the ward has also suffered from street thefts, drug dealing, moped enabled crime, anti-social behaviour and a recent alleged firearms incident at an off-licence. The ward police officers have suggested that some offences are likely to have been linked.

It is recognised residents and those who work in Charlton may not be reporting incidents directly to the police, therefore promoting reporting methods will be explored. It is understood residents feel reporting to police results in little or no action, however an important message to the community is to highlight the fact that if police are unaware of incidents, it is difficult to respond to them.

As a partnership, we want to ensure all incidents are being reported so that appropriate resources and responses are deployed, not only from police but from the Royal Borough of Greenwich and any relevant stakeholder who can contribute to the reduction of crime and disorder.

Crime figures

The safer neighbourhood team produced figures for 1st November 2018 – 4th July 2019. It is evident crimes have shown an increase around March, which correlates with the concerns highlighted by the community. However, figures also show number of incidents have started to decrease, which is positive and the aspiration is to continue with this trend. The decrease may be a result of the work already undertaken in response to the incidents.

Table of crime figures

Work carried out by Greenwich Council

Daniel Bygrave, Community Safety Officer, Safer Spaces Team, has visited several shops following reports of burglaries. Daniel liaised with the business owners and employees and detailed options of how further incidents could be prevented by utilising problem solving methodology.

These options include layout and how the premises can be further secured. Daniel also explored the possibility of CCTV in the area following an enquiry from a councillor. Unfortunately this option is currently less feasible due to the lack of fibre optics needed to support the cameras, however other options for the area were discussed in the meeting held on 4 July, which are discussed in the ‘next steps’ section.

Garry Perkins, ASB Officer, Safer Communities team has issued a number of warning letters to individuals who have caused anti-social behaviour in the Charlton ward. Those who breach warnings issued to them will expect to be pursued with anti-social behaviour enforcement action.

Police activities

Actions undertaken:

Police officers changing their hours to night duties on a voluntary basis.

Home visits to known offenders have taken place, evidential and intelligence gathering and the use of stop and search.

Motor vehicle response tactics employed have been very similar to that used to target burglary subjects. It is suggested they are likely to be the same opportunists therefore crime prevention information is being tweaked for vehicle crime. Messages are not only around leaving valuables in sight but also around locking doors and windows.

The Safer Neighbourhoods Team (SNT) led on a burglary operation in June. Their shifts started at 10pm and finishing at 6am to fit the needs of the ward. The officers have been doing these shifts in uniform to show a high visible presence. Covert patrols have been led by officers from other teams.

All victims have been and are being visited.

A number of warrants were being planned across the borough which should have a positive impact in the Charlton ward. The Gangs Unit are leading on this. The evidence is suggesting the burglary and vehicle crime are drug related.

An image of a suspect was provided to the Police. The individual has been identified and action is being taken.

A two month burglary operation is being carried out.

The violence-related offences have been ad-hoc offences, not gang related.

The SNT have signed up to the phone app Nextdoor where there are already 6,000 members. Police plan to send out crime prevention information this way. Twitter is also being utilised.

Automatic Number Plate Recognition operations have been planned.

The SNT are working with the Charlton Central Residents Association regarding reporting, awareness, prevention information and intelligence gathering.

Smartwater is being rolled out in priority streets and was also promoted at the recent Great Get Together event in Charlton Park on 29th June.

Neighbourhood Watch Activities

The Neighbourhood Watch lead disseminated crime prevention messages to all members in the Royal Borough of Greenwich highlighting burglaries and motor vehicle crimes as the issues.

The message includes vigilance in the community, reporting any suspicious behaviour and submitting any CCTV footage to police.

All the existing Neighbourhood Watch schemes in Charlton had been contacted and volunteers had been asked to carry out a door knocking exercise to provide residents with burglary awareness and prevention messages.

A burglary masterclass was delivered in the ward and there is scope to deliver more.

Meeting on 4 July and next steps

The purpose of the meeting was to obtain fuller understanding of the issues and agree ways forward. The meeting was attended by ward councillors Leo Fletcher and Gary Dillon, Assistant Director Community Safety & Environmental Health Sean McDermid, representation from the DMT Directorate, Safer Communities, Open Spaces and SNT officers.

The actions agreed from the meeting are as follows:

Police and council Officers to review all of the incidents and available intelligence which can be shared

SNT to further roll out Smart water kits with possible support regarding funding from Greenwich Council

The organisation of a Crime Prevention Event, which would involve the SNT, Neighbourhood Watch and Community Safety Officer where a further Burglary Masterclass can be delivered.

Environmental Visual Audit with designing out crime officers to identify Hotspot areas, which could present an opportunity for CCTV or mobile CCTV locations and enhancing visibility of areas by cutting back hedges/bushes and additional lighting.

Adopting a Town Centre approach to Charlton Village.

Disseminating any good news stories to enhance community reassurance via council communications team in addition to SNT communications.

To add Charlton as the fourth tasking priority for the month of July under Integrated Enforcement. This way visibility by Street Services and Warden Patrols would increase.

To devise a detailed action plan/Problem Solving Plan encompassing all the crime types and options for responses for each.

To introduce a monthly stakeholder group forum.

The immediate next step is to arrange visits to all affected businesses and explore problem solving options with council and police representatives. A meeting with the partnership police inspector is taking place on 11 July to discuss the possibility of a formal problem solving process around burglary which will cover the businesses in Charlton and other businesses affected in the borough.

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Burglary down, car crime up – Charlton ward crime stats now available

Police in Floyd Road on a matchday

Greenwich Council’s Community Safety & Environment Scrutiny Panel took a look at the key performance measures set by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) on Thursday night, and the Charlton ward-level results make interesting reading.

Comparison with neighbouring wards will raise questions about neighbourhood policing policies, and police community support officer (PCSO) numbers locally.

It’s worth noting that Charlton ward has retained its dedicated PCSO, while other wards – such as Kidbrooke with Hornfair, which covers the southern part of SE7 – share with neighbouring wards. The Metropolitan Police is considering getting rid of all 1,000 PCSOs in London.

Key year-on-year results include:

  • A decline in reported burglaries; residential and non-residential
  • A decline in reported robberies
  • A significant (63%) increase in reported vehicle thefts
  • An increase in reported thefts from vehicles
  • decrease in reported theft from the person
  • An increase in reported criminal damage
  • An increase in reported violence against the person.

Click the tables below to enlarge them and get a more detailed view of the data, plus comparison with wards across the borough:MOPAC_1MOPAC_2MOPAC_3

The original data can be found on the council’s website. Cllr Chris Lloyd of Peninsula ward has called on the council to make this data more readily available to residents:

Thanks to Cllr Lloyd for tweeting from last night’s meeting. The MOPAC Dashboard gives more information on the London-wide picture for reported crimes.