An Anglican vicar is having to sleep in his church at night to deter thieves trying to steal lead from the roof during a major repair project.
The repairs are being carried out on Holy Trinity Church, in Woodland Road, Darlington, after it raised Â£420,000 in grants and donations but the building has been attacked by thieves, once in July and once in August. On both occasions, a very small amount of lead was removed but not taken away.
Priest-in Charge, the Venerable Nick Barker, also the Archdeacon of Auckland, said: â€œWe have an excellent roof burglar alarm system, on which we are putting extra sensors, and a very good security patrol company, Sparta Security, working for us. On both occasions we think that the thieves must have been disturbed.
â€œHowever, I have been sleeping in the church over the past fortnight to provide added peace of mind in case they try again.
â€œThis has left me feeling cross and frustrated. There is only a minimal amount of lead on the roof but thieves can soon do a very costly amount of damage for little reward. We are an active church trying to do something positive for the community yet we find ourselves targeted by thieves.
â€œIt means that some of the money that people kindly donated to the project has had to go on improved security.
â€œI am also concerned that the people trying to steal the lead are putting themselves at risk. It is dangerous to climb on the roof at night, in the dark.â€
Holy Trinity Church was built in 1836 and work is under way to tackle dry rot and repair the 175-year-old roof as well as making the church more accessible for community groups and events. The scaffolding will come down in mid-October with internal work due to be finished by Christmas.
The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) provided a Â£250,000 grant for the work, while the church raised the rest, including Â£70,000 in legacies.
Grade II* listed Holy Trinity appears on English Heritage’s Places of Worship at Risk register and was originally built as a chapel after railways brought more people to Darlington.