Sharp rise in thefts and vandalism at churches

A moonlight raid on an East Anglian round tower church caused a total of £28,000 of damage.

While thieves stole metal worth a few pounds, it left the tiny congregation of a remote rural church near Southwold with a massive bill.

A national survey by the Churches Conservation Trust, has highlighted an alarming increase in thefts – and also of stained glass, as recently reported by the Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

The charity recorded a total of a 75% increase in incidents at its 353 churches in 2018. Theft and vandalism were the biggest increases, almost doubling in just one year, and the highest number of incidents since CCT records started in 1999.

It was almost exactly a year ago that All Saints, Frostenden, which lies just off the A12 between Lowestoft and Southwold, was the target of thieves. Work to repair the stained glass windows and the roof has just started and it is hoed to complete the restoration by spring next year.

A long-serving churchwarden, Paul Scriven, who has been caring for this north Suffolk church for five decades, said that the thieves broke nine windows and also smashed one to gain entry to the church, where further damage was done in October last year.

They stole the lead drip sills and took nine brass items, including the altar cross. Three of the brass objects had been inscribed as memorials – to date, nothing has been recovered, he added.

An attempt was also made to pull the lightning conductor out of the ground while a small quantity of lead flashing was taken between the nave and the tower and from the east and west end of the south aisle, said Mr Scriven, who has been caring for this north Suffolk church for five decades.

He was grateful for financial help including grants from the Suffolk Historic Churches Trust, private charities and £2,000 from the Round Tower Churches Society.

The Sunday Telegraph reported that thefts of stained glass may have been carried out to order for sale on the black market market, possibly as many as 35 last year.