Beds, Herts & Bucks

Bedfordshire church lead roof theft: Felt laid in Houghton Conquest

Church roof Image copyright Gary Mudd
Image caption The new high tensile felt coating is helping to keep the church watertight

A new temporary felt roof has been laid on a church a year after 20 tonnes of lead was stolen.

About £6,000 has been spent on the new coating, following the theft from the 14th Century All Saints Church in Houghton Conquest, Bedfordshire in October 2018.

A plastic coating was not keeping the water out, the church council said.

Sarah Hannant, of the church's fundraising committee, said without the work the whole roof was in danger.

"The wooden frame of the roof was getting so wet, and as it is so old, we were worried the whole thing would come down and then we would have been completely lost," she said.

Fundraising efforts were continuing as an estimated £300,000 could be needed to permanently replace the roof of the Grade I listed building, she added.

Only about £22,000 has been raised so far and the insurance would pay out about £15,000.

Image copyright Sarah Hannant
Image caption Plastic sheeting had to be placed over pews to stop them getting water damaged by the leaky roof
Image caption Buckets had to be placed under the roof where it had leaked

Since the summer, worshippers have not been able to use the building fully, as it has been "raining indoors", said Mrs Hannant.

"We have held services, but we had to move to the choir stalls," she said.

She added that a wedding and christening were held, but only because it did not rain.

However, no other church bookings had been taken, so no fundraising concerts or teas had been held, meaning vital revenue had been lost.

Image caption Daylight could be seen through some sections of the roof

Gary Mudd, Parochial Church Council member, said the felt roof was working as the church was now dry and it "should last for about five years".

Discussions are continuing with Heritage England to work out what the permanent roof should be made of.

"At present the choice is stainless steel [to avoid] the worry about lead being stolen, together with the expense," he said.

Image copyright Gary Mudd and BBC
Image caption Plastic covering was placed on the roof after the lead was stolen, but it did not keep all the rain out

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