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Lead Theft

Architect and SPAB member, Nick Joyce, sends out regular newsletters to the churchwardens of the parish churches in his care. His Autumn Maintenance Reminder gave the following advice:

Theft of lead from porch roof "Now is the time to dig out that ladder and check gutters for fallen leaves ensuring that all drain freely away from the church.

It is perhaps also worth noting that quite a large number of churches have recently had more than their leaves removed - unfortunately, the rising value of lead has made this a target once again so please be aware of unusual activity around the church."

The theft of lead is an increasing problem which a number of organisations are trying to tackle with the help of volunteers. The following list provides some sources of useful information and guidance:

  • English Heritage has updated its advice with regard to the eft of metal.  The revised Guidance Note is in two parts: the first outlines English Heritage's approach and advice for congregations on the significance of lead, how to protect it, and how to respond to thefts; the second offers detailed practical information about selecting the material to be used for historic church roofs and making it secure.
  • Information about the theft of lead and links to further guidance can be found on the Churchcare website.
  • The Ecclesiastical Insurance Group have issued advice on the theft of metals. Downloadable guidance is available on their website.
  • Methodist Insurance have also produced similar guidance for churches and chapels. This a available from the resources centre section of their website.
  • Congregational have a dedicated metal theft website called Church Alert.
  • Information about SmartWater and how to use ti can be found on the SmartWater website.
  • National Churchwatch provides guidance on general issues of church safety and security on their website.

The SPAB is commited to the use of lead as a roofing material and to the principle of replacing like with like for the following reasons:

  • Lead is an aesthetically pleasing and traditional material.
  • It is durable and long lasting.
  • It is easily worked and can be dressed into difficult or awkward areas to protect the buidling from the risk of water ingress.
  • Lead has a proven performance record as a roofing material and is able to withstand extreme weather conditions.
  • It is extremly malleable compared to other sheet metals like stainless steel and copper, meaning that sections can be easily repaired or replaced by skilled leadworkers.
  • It is a sustainable materials as it is fully recyclable and retains its value.
  • It does not require an insulating layer to reduce the noise of rain.

The SPAB will continue to promote the use of new lead to replace stolen lead because it is by far the best and most appropriate material.  Howevever, the SPAB does accept that in an increasing number of cases where there is a substantial risk of further theft an alternative material may have to be considered.  If an alternative material is used, we would always consider its use to be temporary, and that when it reaches the end of its life, the use of lead should be considered once again.

© SPAB 2011