Campaign launched to protect historic Norfolk churches
With an average of four Norfolk churches suffering lead thefts every single month, a partnership and campaign has been launched to raise money and install alarms on vulnerable buildings.
To combat the threat and protect these community spaces, the Bishop of Norwich, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk, the Norfolk Churches Trust, Allchurches Trust and the Round Tower Churches Society have been working together to find a long term solution and have created The Roof Alarm Scheme.
Through this partnership, over £250,000 will be spent installing alarms on a number of churches.
Churches are more than just historically important buildings containing so much of our history and local heritage. They are also a place of worship, celebration and reflection where families meet to mark important life events at baptisms, weddings and funerals. They are places of community that build cohesiveness.
The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James said: “The landscape of Norfolk would be spiritually flattened if we lost our wealth of medieval churches. They are better cared for than ever thanks to volunteers who worship in them regularly, raise money for the fabric and cherish these buildings. But they are under threat from lead thieves who damage the fabric, leave havoc in their wake and cause those who care so well for our churches to feel dejected and dispirited.
“This roof alarm scheme is an imaginative and effective way of combating these thieves and giving heart to those who care for our churches so well. That’s why I’m glad to contribute to the scheme using trust funds available to me. I’m grateful to the Police and Crime Commissioner and the other contributors for their imagination and support.”
Lorne Green, Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk, said: “My blood boils whenever I hear a church has been targeted. That is why I said enough is enough and started the ball rolling on this working partnership, committing a substantial amount of ‘seed money’ to get it underway.
“These are such senseless crimes against our shared heritage. Churches are places of worship and historic and architectural gems; they are often also the beating heart of our communities serving as community hubs. We are only custodians of these wonderful buildings, which belong not only to this area but the world. We are taking action to stop the scourge of lead thefts and this cowardly and mindless desecration of our local heritage.”
In many churches and churchyards there are also important emotional ties to our ancestors, they provide clues to our shared heritage and our family history. There are memorials to remember the bravery of those who fell in past wars and an opportunity for us all to remember their sacrifice.
Ian Lonsdale, Chairman of the Norfolk Churches Trust said: “Norfolk features the largest cluster of medieval churches in the world. Many of these churches are at risk because of ongoing lead thefts, which have a detrimental impact on many levels. It effects the structural integrity of the building and as a result possibly puts internationally important works of art at risk. It also has an effect at a human level as many of the community are emotionally attached to the building and its artefacts, and the need to both manage the immediate impact of the theft and then raise funds to carry out the repairs is beyond the ability of many on their own.
“These lead thefts are putting our heritage at risk so need to be countered. The best way of achieving this is through the installation of an alarm system. The Norfolk Churches Trust is delighted to be working proactively and collaboratively to achieve its core aim of protecting churches for this and future generations to enjoy.”
Churches targeted by criminal acts often have to redirect their attention from practically serving their local community, to raising funds to replace the roof and securing the building.
Acts of vandalism and theft can also prevent vital community activities from being able to meet in the building such as parent and toddler groups, dementia cafes and foodbank distribution.
Without an alarm approved by insurers, many church buildings are not fully insured and parishes do not receive sufficient insurance to cover repairs if there is any damage or theft.
Therefore, the Bishop of Norwich and the Police Crime Commissioner are asking the public to consider contributing to install alarms on other churches by donating to the Raise the Alarm campaign.
To donate to the Raise the Alarm campaign simply visit www.norfolkfoundation.com/raise-the-alarm-appeal
If you are not able to contribute, you can still help! If you see or hear anything suspicious around a church please report it to the police. To report suspicious activity please call 101 or if you see a crime in progress please call 999.
Pictured top are, from the left, DC Andy Brown, the Bishop of Norwich, Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk Lorne Green and the Rev Canon Tony Billett.