The Raping of a Church

in architecture •  2 years ago

This was a new one for me. Visiting friends in Norfolk, I learned something that would never occur to me in a million years. It seems it is a thing to steal lead from church roofs.

This beautiful St. Mary's Church in Carleton Forehoe, dating from the 15th century, had just been stripped of its lead roof. Such heists are carefully orchestrated and the escalating cases of vandalism have become a big a problem for historic landmark churches in England.

Hardened ecclesiastic criminals wait until the darkest hours of the night to dismantle history. Lead, a soft metal, is cut away from the roof structure supports and rolled up like scrolls. Then it's quietly passed down to the ground crew. Near the end of the pillage, a van bursts through the hedges off the main road. In the blink of an eye, the lead is loaded and gone long before the police can respond to any alarms.

Lead is valuable as scrap metal, and there is no way to punish these highwaymen unless they are actually caught in the act. Apparently cctv footage is not enough evidence to prosecute. And it's highly unlikely they will be caught in the act since these crimes occur in rural areas where traversing narrow country lanes is impossible at high speeds.

Below is a view of the Church of St. Mary from our friends' house. The scary thing is their bedroom looks right out at the church. The thieves were most likely watching to see when they turned out their lights for the night so they could get started.

Being a California native, I am not used to hearing stories like this. No churches around me have lead roofs. In fact, very little of where I live is older than 50 years. Lead on a 600 year old church is not fathomable, let alone the idea of it being seen as a commodity to sell.

If there is a hell, you can be sure that those who rape a church will be paying their dues.

One last thing. Here is a key to the church. Since it sits on the edge of our friends' estate, they get to be the custodians. It's monstrous. As I was holding it, I was thinking of how many hands it had passed through in the church's history. Utterly fascinating.

lead rooftop photograph courtesy of HE Heritage Crime‏ @HeritageCrime 5 Dec 2016

with this link below:

All Churches Trust @NatChurchTrust website for details of grants for roof alarms
http://www.allchurches.co.uk/news/roof-protection-scheme/index.aspx #OpCrucible pic.twitter.com/bkTb8CfZnH

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It's sad they have to suffer these thefts. Nice pictures and it's great to see you posting again!

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Thank you, @donkeypong! I have been away much longer than intended. It really is sad. You would think the people who work at the scrap metal yards would ask questions about where it came from. Maybe money is just money to everyone?

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In the U.S., I think the reputable scrap metal yards have to ask where it came from. Some states have laws and also the businesses want to protect their reputations. But I'm sure it can be hard to recognize the origins and there must be some buyers who prefer not to know.

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I think in this case it is the latter. Kind of like "waste management" in New Jersey. Don't ask, don't tell. I'd sure be asking questions if a van load of neatly rolled up lead showed up.

That's some really massive key, nice piece...thanks for sharing
Please check out my blog and support with a follow back..thanks

That's absolutely awful. I refuse to understand how someone could commit a crime so shamelessly and insensitively. Thank you for bringing attention to this, so that St. Mary's Church in Carleton Forehoe can live on in new ways. On a brighter note, great to have you back :)

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Thank you so much, @voronoi. It is a shame indeed. And to think there are businesses that market to such churches for alarm protection like the link I posted at the bottom.
I have a bunch of architectural posts coming with you in mind! I'm slowly re-emerging. ;)

Very sad.

I had no idea lead was ever used as roofing material, or that it is so valuable. A common problem around here is copper theft. People steal the coils from air conditioners, and strip water pipes and electrical wire.

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Copper! Of course. I had heard that too. It's a big racket when renters get evicted. I know of cases where they strip the whole place down.
This was a big surprise to me about lead. I think even more so that it would be used as a roofing material.

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Especially since lead is so incredibly heavy. Not that any other roofing materials are lightweight... but I've removed lead sheets from hospital exam room walls. I can't imagine carrying it up onto a roof!

This have become a common problem in Sweden. They rip off copper roof from churches, universities and more

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Unbelievable. They must be watching carefully to see when you are home or not. You certainly couldn't pull this off with someone at home.

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And here I though metals theft for scrap was a uniquely South African problem...

If you leave your house unattended for to long here they steal the copper water pipes and copper electrical wiring from the roof and walls of your house

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Again, the most unnerving thing is to think that people are paying attention to your comings and goings so they know when to strike. Criminals are getting bolder.

I was kind of hoping for some atheist post after seeing this title, but I'm not disappointed nevertheless ;)

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I'd say atheists are committing these heinous acts! Does that count? :)

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I am not religious at all (maybe more an agnostic than an atheist), but I respect that people believe in different things and have different ways of life, so of course I also respect religious people (as long as they respect me, too).
In my opinion to act like these criminal thieves and destroy such precious and very beautiful buildings is a shame, and I really hope they will be caught and punished!

Lead thievery is rife all over Britain and it is sad that it is mostly old and beautiful buildings that suffer.

Boy oh boy tho, that key is wild!

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Isn't it? Heavy too! I imagine these guys would have several of these types of keys dangling from their belts.
I had not even thought of such a problem as lead thievery. I'm still shaking my head. But then, why wouldn't there be? If it's valuable, they will take it. Nothing is sacred.

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Its so sad but you are abslutely right, nothing is sacred anymore. They just dont care.

Wow I can barely imagine carrying just one of those! I wonder how easy the locks were or were not to pick!

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I have another church post coming. This key was much smaller but same heft. It was so tricky to use. Centuries of workings cause all kinds of problems. You have to jiggle it just right and in a certain order, all the while feeling like the iron is disintegrating from the pressure.

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I look forward to seeing the next one!

Hmm.. Lead. They could have just joined Steemit where they give free money, suckers thiefs. They could have posted pictures of the church. Maybe even compete in #photochallenge

It's despicable to desecrate these beautiful churches for profit. This also must put a tremendous financial burden on the church community to replace the roof, and at a time when many are having a hard time making ends meet as it is.
Thanks for the photo of the key---it is amazing to wonder at all the hands its passed through over the centuries. Upvoted and following

So sad I missed you guys on your trip; next time :-)

Cg

Very interesting post! I never imagined this kind of thing would happen in England. Is nothing sacred? During the housing crisis tons of copper were stolen from foreclosed homes in the larger U.S. cities. That key his humongous! How much did it weigh? Is it safe to say the key is as old as the church? Thanks @fairytalelife.

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It's hard to say about the key. It was extremely old. I couldn't tell you the weight, but it was not flimsy. Maybe that one had been forged more recently. I'm sure there are ways to tell. That will be an excuse to go back there. Thank you for commenting!

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Well hopefully the thieves don't come after the key! Lol.

Yeah, people have no brain, it's our history that they are destructing.
I don't known lead is used for covering roof i know they use Zinc but never heard of lead roof. I know they use copper too for covering roof and for gutter.
These are all valuable metal for these stealer, I can speak of that because it's one of my job to pick up scrap metal ( i say pick up scrap not stealing from anywhere) . I do this for money of course but also from an ecological point of view I clean the nature, I know the places where young people come to drink and just leave all their garbage I take 2 garbage bag one for junk 1 to pick All aluminum cans, and in addition to that I see a piece of metal (anything) that drags alongside a road or in wild dumps. And of course I also dispose of the metals of people, often of old house abandoned in a dirty state, I recover all that I can and I give 10-20% to the owner according to the sum I made.

Maybe i'll post a thread about this

It is sad that there are such intruders. And most likely the church will have to be covered with cheaper material. To the same lead is very harmful to the body and health. Replacing the roof is a matter of time, I think.

It's fairly common in the UK as scrap metal prices are pretty high. Thieves have even cut copper gas pipes off buildings leaving the gas pouring out. They just don't care. Another crime locally had them stealing used oil from a chip shop! The owner would normally sell it himself to help his profits. He has pictures of the van used, but is having problems getting the police to take action.

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Chip oil? No kidding! What on earth? These thieves are almost like a plague of locusts. They strip the fields bare and move on. Thank you for your comment, @steevc.

Great story but Churches have always had this problem in Britain. You would think though in this day and age CCTV should be enough for a prosecution. BTW lovely photos

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Thank you, @ianstrat. It was truly disheartening to learn about this problem.

It is really sad to see wonderful history and irreplaceable buildings destroyed by criminals for a few $. It is sad that these people do not value such beautiful old buildings!!

Those old lead roofs are so beautiful, so sad. I am also a huge fan of the copper and slate roofs, I'd imagine the copper is worth a pretty penny as well. Great to read one of your posts again, I missed you here @fairytalelife!

Beautiful post, Johanna!
I'm so glad you are back :D

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Thank you, @richman. I am happy to be back. :)