Elmswell church roof repairs close to fundraising target

Fireman inspects lead theft damage at Elmswell Image copyright Peter Goodridge
Image caption Lead was stripped from the roof on the evening of Friday, 11 November, just ahead of a weekend of Remembrance services

A church severely damaged by rain after thieves stripped the roof of lead is close to hitting its fundraising target to carry out interior repairs.

Thieves removed the lead slates and damaged masonry at St John's in Elmswell, Suffolk, in November.

Rain then got in and accelerated damage to the chancel ceiling, with plaster falling down on to pews.

A quote of £34,000 has been made to repair the ceiling, and just under £30,000 has been donated so far.

Image copyright Peter Goodridge
Image caption Lumps of masonry tumbled into the church's memorial garden as thieves ripped up the roof
Image copyright Peter Goodridge
Image caption Felt has been laid on the roof of the church as a temporary measure to stop rain getting in

Rev Peter Goodridge said the replacement of the £40,000 lead roof should be covered by insurance, but it requires approval from Heritage England as the church is planning to use stainless steel, which is less valuable to thieves than lead.

Repair work to the chancel was originally estimated at about £60,000, but one company says it can do it for the lower figure.

Stainless steel

Mr Goodridge said: "It's beginning to look achievable now we've had the quote, which is significantly less than the original estimate.

"I feel no anger, just sadness that people are so obsessed with making a few pounds that they cause so much damage to a historic building and the community.

"It's frustrating, but with my faith I'm hopeful we'll end up with something better than we started with."

Image copyright Peter Goodridge
Image caption Plaster fell from the chancel ceiling on to pews, but not when anyone was sitting there
Image copyright Peter Goodridge
Image caption Rain damage accelerated the problems of plaster damage on the chancel ceiling
Image caption Rev Peter Goodridge said it was his prayer the thieves "could see the error of their ways and change"

Roofing felt, usually used on sheds and outbuildings, was put on the church as a temporary measure.

The rector said bats roosted in the roof and any repair work needed to be finished before the breeding season for the protected mammals, which starts in April.

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