LEAD thieves have struck at Hatfield Church again causing tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage.
The Grade One listed building has been at the centre of village life since around 1150 and has been the target of vandals over a number of years.
Chairman of the Hatfield Church Building Trust, Catherine Watson told the Gazette this week: “Despite using Smart Water marking on the lead for some years we have still had a number of thefts during the past few years causing damage to the church fabric and anger amongst the congregation, but in July there was major damage caused by the theft of lead requiring £130,000 to repair .
“Although there may have been vandals in previous centuries I doubt whether there have ever been those that have caused so much outrage and distress that the present ones have.”
After the theft in July the Vicar of Hatfield Church, Rev Paul Wilson, launched a major ‘Raise the Roof Appeal’ throughout the parish to raise the money. Leaflets were delivered to 5,000 houses and the response from the community has been described as “heartening” but they are still far short of the amount needed for the repairs.
The thieves returned last week to remove even more of the lead that was left, leaving the congregation and residents of Hatfield “seething with fury”.
Hatfield Church PCC has now agreed to replace the lead with terne coated stainless steel, after advice from the church architect, which has a lower scrap value than lead and is more difficult to remove.
Catherine added: “Can we then be free of these destructive thieves ? I hope so. When is the law going to come down hard on the thieves and the receivers?”
Rev Paul Wilson said: “We have been so encouraged by the huge amount of support from our local parish and community.
“It’s heartwarming to know that people love this building and what it stands for, especially on days when I’m in church and rain is pouring through the temporary plastic sheeting and into dozens of buckets, which is heartbreaking to witness.”
He added: “We have now made the decision to proceed with the roof repairs with specialist contractors at the end of September, in the hope that the still much needed donations will continue to come in and the work can be paid for.”