Do we need vigilante vicars?

Updated 9:46AM, Friday July 13th, 2012 by Simon Cross, 1 comment seperator

As a police crackdown on ‘cash for scrap’ dealers fails to stem the tide of metal thefts, do we need a new breed of vigilante vicars to protect church roofs?

Church roofs have been causing problems

(c) Micah68 - creative commons

Insurers are still paying out around £1 million every week, against claims of metal thefts from a variety of industrial and other targets.

The recent news that the memorial to two little boys killed in IRA bomb attacks on Warrington, Cheshire, was taken by thieves who can expect to get a mere £30.00 as scrap value, is more proof that metal thefts are still on the increase around the UK.

Along with telephone and train lines, churches are one of the most popular targets for thieves who see the relatively unguarded swathes of copper and lead on church roofs as rich pickings.

And hard pushed police are struggling to keep an eye on vulnerable targets. Even when a church has been targeted multiple times it is sometimes up to locals to keep a watch out for miscreants.

A good example of this is the Reverend Chris Colledge who took action after losing thousands of pounds worth of lead from the roof of St Stephen's Church in Bournemouth, Dorset.

Officers had told him it would take months of surveillance to catch the crooks who had repeatedly targeted his roof.

Fearing further thefts, Rev Colledge launched his own stakeout. In the early hours of the morning he spotted a suspicious character shinning up a drain pipe. The miscreant then went on to start cutting lead tiles off the roof.

The vigilant vicar immediately called in the police, who arrested local man Andrew Millar while he was still up on the roof.

Miller, 36, pleaded guilty to theft and received a two-year custodial sentence.

Rev Colledge is not the only priest keeping a night watch. Across the country, clergymen are beginning to go to great lengths to protect their buildings.

In Cleethorpes, North East Lincolnshire, Reverend Richard Holden has camped out and carried out early hours patrols at the Parish church of Old Clee.

When thieves took the lead from the roof of the vestry, the grade one listed building - which dates back to 9th century Saxon times, began to suffer from water damage and cost thousands of pounds to repair. This is despite the original roof having been marked with Smartwater which is intended to discourage metal thieves.

Now Rev Holden is applying for planning permission to replace the metal roof sections with slate.

But as metal thefts show no sign of abating, and the police seem more or less powerless to prevent them, do we now need more clergymen to start patrolling their churchyards?



This article was written and published by Simon Cross for


Do we need vigilante vicars? Discussion

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Belinda Jackson-Knowles
Belinda Jackson-Knowles said...
July 13th, 2012 at 8:17PM • Reply

It's a sad sign of the times...but yes, if that's what it takes to stop this kind of theft, then following the Reverend Chris Colledge's actions may be the best course!

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