THOU SHALT NOT STEAL OUR STEEL

Father Paul Noble outside St Nicholas' Church, Skirbeck, which has become one of the first churches English Heritage has allowed to have stainless steel roof after laed thefts left it stripped.
Father Paul Noble outside St Nicholas' Church, Skirbeck, which has become one of the first churches English Heritage has allowed to have stainless steel roof after laed thefts left it stripped.

A BOSTON church has become one of the first in the UK to install a stainless steel roof – in a bid to beat lead thieves.

St Nicholas’ Church, in Skirbeck, is one of the first to have been allowed to replace a major section of the roof with the non-traditional material, after it was hit by nine thefts which left the roof completely stripped of lead.

The massive project, which also saw a high-tech alarm system installed at the church, has cost around £33,000, and has come only after a long battle with English Heritage, which has been reluctant to allow old churches to use alternative roofing materials.

Father Paul Noble, the vicar at St Nicholas’, said: “We planned to put lead back on the roof again and had got to the stage of getting official permission for work to be done when we had even more lead stolen.

“We started to think we were foolish in the extreme to think we could put lead back on the church roof when that was the reason for the church being targeted.”

Father Noble said he believed the church had been targeted so many times because of its isolated location.

St Nicholas’ was first hit by lead thieves in 2007, shortly after the price of the material rose steeply. Since then it has been hit repeatedly, leading to exterior damage and weather-proofing issues inside the church. The roof has been covered with plastic sheeting for much of the past four years. The thefts have not only caused practical difficulties for the church, they have been unsettling for both Father Noble and his parishioners.

The vicar said: “It has been very upsetting for the church congregation, who have been faced with these repeated thefts and were feeling quite depressed and helpless about the situation. It’s a constant worry.

“The local community feels it is a sad indictment of times when people are not even respecting the church.”

The new roof and alarm system have been in place since the end of last month, but even in that short amount of time, the alarm, which connects to a 24-hour monitoring station, has been activated.

Even in the weeks between the stainless steel roof being installed and the alarm being fitted, thieves visited the church – causing £1,400 of damage.

The money for the roof and security system was provided through Eclesiastical insurance.