Metal theft has cost Diocese of York £2.5 million in 2019 so far

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Metal theft has cost the Diocese of York £2.5 million in 2019 so far with a total of 20 churches targeted by opportunist thieves, latest figures reveal.

The Yorkshire Post recently reported how St Peter's Church in Brafferton had lead stolen from its roof causing more than £100,000 worth of damage, while the Church of St Hilda was stripped of lead resulting in £50,000 worth of damage just several weeks ago.

St Peter's Church in Brafferton

St Peter's Church in Brafferton

The Diocese of York has said the thefts are part of a wave of similar crimes across the country prompted by a world-wide surge in scrap metal prices with a total of 20 historic churches in the area affected, reaching approximately £2.5 million in 2019 so far.

Since 2017 there has been 2,532 crimes on churches across Yorkshire recorded by the four police forces. Of the 2,532 offences, 101 were lead thefts, 517 were general thefts, 429 criminal damage and 272 violent offences.

North Yorkshire alone had 205 crimes recorded against churches including 17 cases of lead theft, 99 general thefts, 73 criminal damage and reports and 16 violent offences.

Church buildings have been an "easy target" for thieves due to their "vulnerable positions and general openness".

The damage caused to the roof of St Peter's Church in Brafferton.

The damage caused to the roof of St Peter's Church in Brafferton.

Mo Metcalf-Fisher from the Countryside Alliance said: “The figures make for extremely distressing reading and paint a bleak picture. What’s worse, is that there are likely many, many more incidents like these recorded but that haven’t been disclosed to us. As a society, irrespective of faith or none, we need to be much more vigilant when it comes to watching over churches and places of worship by reporting suspicious activity."

Residents of Helperby and Brafferton are now invited to a public meeting in the Village Hall, Brafferton at 6pm on Thursday to explore responses to the theft of most of the lead roof covering from the Grade Two listed 16th century Parish Church of St Peter.

The building had only recently been restored as part of a programme of restoration and improvement supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The meeting on Thursday will be led by Priest-in-Charge of the Benefices of Alne and Brafferton the Reverend d Deborah Coyne, with Archdeacon of York Sam Rushton.

Information will be shared about the actual damage done to the roof itself and to other items affected by water ingress, the insurance situation, short-term measures to protect the building, and longer-term plans for its restoration and future protection.

Temporary roof coverings are now in place and St Peter's is open for worship and for visitors.

Reverend Coyne said: "This has been a heartbreaking blow for Helperby and Brafferton; St Peter's is a much-loved building in the village and the surrounding area, whether people are regular worshippers or not, and the theft of the roof covering is a devastating blow to all of us.

"We're supporting the police in their work to discover who did this, and we're committed, where possible, to keeping St Peter's open to all as the heart of the communities it's served for so long - but we are unable to do this entirely on our own.

"I hope that everyone with a heart for St Peter's will come to the meeting on Thursday to hear exactly what's happened, what's being done, and how we can all help to secure the future of our beautiful church."