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Theft of Metal from Churches

The theft of valuable metals such as lead and copper from church buildings has been a major issue for historic churches across the UK in recent years. These materials are stripped from roofs, guttering and other areas, which leaves the buildings vulnerable to water ingress through rainfall and heavy winds.

The number of instances of metal theft has thankfully declined since peaking in 2011, but it continues to occur within the Diocese of Peterborough on multiple occasions each year, and so church congregations need to remain vigilant.

Security Measures

A number of simple measures can be considered to reduce the risk of metal theft at your church, and they are listed below.

Installation of security systems

  • Use a forensic marking system such as SmartWater.
  • Install an electronic roof alarm system or CCTV.
  • Install external security lighting around church.
  • Display signage advertising that security systems are in place.

Preventing easy access

  • Ensure that means of easy access to roofs such as ladders and bins are stored and secured.
  • Ensure all tools are locked away when not in use, particularly during building works.
  • Consider using anti-climb paint.
  • Restrict vehicular access to church.

 Engage with the local community

  • Inform church community and neighbours when authorised building works are taking place.
  • Ask local community to report any suspicious activity to police.
  • Contact the local Crime Reduction Officer and seek their advice.


If Metal Theft Has Occurred

 If you discover that your church has recently been subjected to metal theft, you should notify the following people:

 Your local police department on their non-emergency phone line, and obtain a crime number.

  • Your insurance company.
  • Your church architect to inspect the damage and provide advice on emergency temporary coverings.
  • Your Archdeacon, Historic Churches Support Officer, and the DAC for support and guidance - please also complete this form.and send it to the DAC
  • Any neighbouring churches, as they may also be at risk.


Following this, it is important to install a temporary covering to the affected area, to limit any extra damage that could be caused by bad weather.

After a theft has occurred, there is a strong possibility that the thieves will return, so it is important to re-evaluate the security measures in place to reduce the risk of more metal being stolen.

 If a parish has recently suffered metal theft, and believes that the church building remains at risk to future thefts, one option may be to replace the roof covering with a different material that will be less attractive to thieves. If your church is listed, these alterations would require Planning Permission from your local authority and Faculty from the diocese. Therefore if you are considering this option, you should contact the DAC or Historic Churches Support Officer for advice at an early stage.


 The insurance company Ecclesiastical have confirmed that from 1st August 2015 claims can be paid in full following the theft of external metal and subsequent damage, so long as Smartwater has been applied and an approved roof alarm system has been installed.

For further information about these changes visit

For further information regarding theft of metal from churches contact Jon Breckon, Historic Churches Support Officer.  01733 887016




Other sources of advice:

Church architect

Church insurer

Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC)

Local Police Crime Reduction Officer


Safer Places of Worship

Ecclesiastical Insurance

National Churches Trust

Historic England