Index – lead theft

The following Index was created during the preparation of the post Dastardly crime foiled by churchwarden, which was posted on 13 May 2023.

L&RUK posts on lead theft

Consistory court judgments 

  • Re St. Mary the Blessed Virgin Eastry [2012] Canterbury Commissary Ct, Ellis Com Gen. “A faculty was granted to permit the replacement of stolen lead roofing with a non-metal roofing material known as Ubiflex. The faculty was limited to a period of five years.”
  • Re St. Nicholas Addlethorpe [2015] Lincoln Const Ct, Bishop Ch. Use of Terne Coasted Stainless Steel, (CTS), for roofing following theft of lead.
  • Re St Leonard Watlington [2016] ECC Oxf 3. The petitioners sought approval for the replacement of five cast iron downpipes and associated hoppers on a Grade II* listed church with rainwater goods manufactured in high density polyethylene (HDPE) .
  • Re St. Mary Mappleton [2016] ECC Der 2 PCC sought to replace the stolen lead flashings from the church roof with Ubiflex as history of lead thefts. As a temporary expedient to preserve the fabric, Chancellor agreed but PCC within 4 years to submit to the Registry a report on fund-raising to provide for a much longer-lasting solution.
  • Re All Saints Ladbroke [2016] ECC Cov 6 The Chancellor permitted the exhumation and reburial of a wife and husband, interred in 1971 and 2003 respectively, and the associated movement of an upright memorial stone on the grounds of “public benefit”. The petition was sought by one of the churchwardens, with the support of the PCC and the daughter of the deceased. On two occasions since 2004, thieves had used the memorial as a stepping stone to gain access to the church roof and steal the lead, the second incident causing the memorial to fall over.
  • Re St John the Baptist, Saints Lawrence and Anne, Knowle [2017] ECC Bir 1 The long time-line of this petition was outlined in paragraph 3 (a) to (t): in 2009, stolen lead rainwater goods on the north side of the church were replaced with similar materials, which in turn were stolen in 2011 form the Grade I church; in 2012, in view of water ingress and damage to internal walls, the church sought approval for the immediate installation of GRP rainwater goods. The Diocesan Advisory Committee and English Heritage were unhappy about the use of GRP on a Grade I church; in July 2012 the Deputy Chancellor granted a temporary licence for GRP rainwater goods, subject to conditions. GRP rainwater goods were installed and the Church subsequently applied for a confirmatory faculty [4].
  • Re St. Peter Church Lawford [2019] ECC Cov 4 The Rector and Churchwardens sought to replace the lead on the south aisle and vestry roofs with terne-coated stainless steel. The Grade II church had suffered from lead theft in the past and already had a terne-coated steel roof over the north porch. Historic England objected to terne-coated steel, and referring the court to the HE booklet Metal Thefts from Historic Buildings, stated that in this case there does not appear to be a particularly strong argument in terms of the need to replace the existing lead roof with another material such as terne coated steel [4].

The Deputy Chancellor determined that the Petitioners had shown good reason for the replacement of lead with terne-coated stainless steel, and he granted a faculty.

L&RUK posts

  • Scrap Metal Dealers’ Bill, Richard Ottaway’s Scrap Metal Dealers’ Bill passed its report stage in the Commons on 9thNovember, (12 November 2012).
  • Church Repairs, October 11th was designated a National Day of Action for Operation Tornado, a multi-agency initiative involving: the police; HMRC; Department for Work and Pensions; Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA); British Transport Police; Environment Agency, and SEPA. As a result of this and other measures, some police forces have reported falls in thefts of up a 50 per cent, and Ecclesiastical, which insurers many Church of England buildings, has dealt with 770 claims totalling £1.3M during the first nine months of 2012, compared with 2100 totalling £4.5M for the same period in 2011. (21 October 2012).
  • Scrap Metal Dealers Act now in force – modified rapture!, The Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013, which received Royal Assent on 28 February 2013 and came into force on 1 October 2013, (3 October 2013).
  • Church roofs: replacement of lead following theft  One of the more recent consistory court judgments Re All Saints Leamington Hastings [2014] Ch. Coventry Eyre Ch., provided an opportunity to review other case law in this area, bearing in mind the fact-specific nature of such determinations, and the absence of a sophisticated doctrine of binding precedent and stare decisis within the church courts. (5 November 2014).
  • Dr Edward Drax Free, St Giles, Oxford, where Dr Edward Drax Free had been vicar from 1801 to 1809, before moving to All Saints, Sutton, Bedfordshire. At his trial in 1824, it was alleged that he stole the lead off his own church roof to sell for scrap; he impregnated several of his housekeepers; allowed swine to desecrate the graveyard; and had been publicly abusive, both sober and drunk. (15 May 2016).
  • Lead theft – future threats in parishes and parliament, in which we noted the need for awareness at local and national level of the potential threats, and the useful Check List produced by Ecclesiastical Insurance which stated that the application and registration of SmartWater (or an approved alternative means of forensic marking. (4 January 2017).
  • Church security, In February 2018, thieves vandalised the roof of the north aisle of St Michael and All Angels, Wadenhoe, aiming to steal lead. The roof had previously been covered in lead, but in 2010/11 the roofs of the church were mainly covered in terne-coated stainless steel sheeting, at a cost of £87,000. The stainless steel had “weathered to the colour of lead” and, following the theft, signage has been placed around the church to indicate the nature of the roofing material. The church is now seeking £15k through crowdfunding for the repairs.1 April 2018).
  • Lessons from the consistory courts (2), Historic England sought support for the views expressed in its booklet, Metal Thefts from Historic Buildings, when it objected to the replacement of a leaking lead roof with terne-coated steel. Unfortunately for Historic England, however, Deputy Chancellor Glyn Samuel noted that the same document included an endorsement of terne-coated stainless steel as an alternative to lead if absolutely necessary – as in the instant case: see Re St Peter Church Lawford [2019] ECC Cov 4. (17 August 2019).
  • Dastardly crime foiled by churchwarden, On 2 May 2023, the Lincolnshire Police reported Church warden led officers to church lead theft suspects, (7 May 2023).
  • “Dastardly” crime foiled by churchwarden, Detailed post on lead theft. (12 May 2023).

General information

  • On the 19 January 2012, the Church Commissioners reported to the House that in 2011 more than 2,500 churches suffered thefts of lead, and that the cost of the resulting claims was about £4.6M. Each of those claims represents a loss to a local community and a distraction to parishes from using their resources for local community life.  Subsequent information from the CofE’s ChurchCare site indicates that: this had incurred a cost of £27.5M over the past six years; and in excess of 2500 claims had been made to Ecclesiastical Insurance in 2011. (19 January 2012).
  • Church Buildings Council Guidance Note:  Alternative roofing materials to lead, August 2016.
  • Potential for increased lead theft The Archdeacons’ News, Bulletin no. 20 December 2016 concerns the price of lead which “is about to reach an all-time high, and is currently trading at over £2,000 a tonne on the London Metal Exchange, a doubling of the price in just over 6 months” (8 January 2017).
  • Historic England’s advice on metal theft and its aftermath, Main points from Historic England’s new guide, Metal Theft from Historic Buildings: prevention, response and recovery. (13 July 2017).
  • Lead thefts and terne-coated stainless steel. Historic England (HE) has published a new Guidance Note: Church Roof Replacement Using Terne-coated Stainless Steel. As many readers will be aware, what to replace a lead roof with when it is failing or has been vandalised (or nicked) is extremely controversial – and Historic England’s normal expectation is a like-for-like replacement. (3 November 2019).
  • Church Buildings Matters: The National Churches Trust issued a five-point manifesto for church buildings in advance of the General Election, calling for a new Urgent Repair and Maintenance Grant Scheme, legislation to ensure that parish and town councils have the legal powers to fund church buildings, help for more churches to become community hubs through the installation of toilets and kitchens, stronger measures to stop heritage crime and lead theft, and an extension of the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme to March 2025. (8 December 2019).
  • Crime in places of worship Countryside Alliance data for 2020/21 suggest that over 4,000 crimes had been committed at churches and religious premises over the last year in England, Northern Ireland, and Wales. 115 lead thefts were recorded, along with 1336 thefts, 1688 incidents of vandalism and criminal damage – including arson – and 824 incidents of violence, including sexual assault and assault on an officer. 207 incidents were specifically marked as burglary. The worst-hit areas were largely in the south east of England, with Sussex Police recording 367 crimes, Kent 209 and the Metropolitan Police 575. (21 November 2021).
  • Metal theft, Historic England has published new guidance on metal theft. The key points of Theft of Metal from Church Roofs: Replacement Materials. (19 September 2021).

Updated: 13 May 2023 at 16:00.

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Index – lead theft" in Law & Religion UK, 13 May 2023,


One thought on “Index – lead theft

  1. There is an earlier consistory court case, in Canterbury diocese, about repairs to a church roof following lead theft: see the judgment of Morag Ellis QC Com Gen (as she then was) in Re St Mary the Blessed Virgin, Eastry [2012] (1 November 2012 – no neutral citation numbers in 2012, but available to download from the ELA website, where the summary is “A faculty was granted to permit the replacement of stolen lead roofing with a non-metal roofing material known as Ubiflex. The faculty was limited to a period of five years.”

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