THIEVES have stripped lead from a church roof recently repaired through community fund-raising.

Parishioners at St Mary’s Church, on Battle Hill, in Hexham, raised £50,000 to replace the roof, and they were devastated to find out that lead flashing was stolen in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Father Christopher Warren said the theft was a big blow to the community, which had put a lot of effort into ensuring the roof was repaired.

He said: “There was lots of fund-raising, lots of coffee mornings and raffles, to raise the £50,000 to fix the roof which hadn’t been replaced for 200 years, and then it was destroyed in just a couple of hours.

“I’m really upset by it. You feel as if you have been kicked a little.

“The big thing is we are complacent around here thinking crime happens elsewhere, but it also happens on our doorstep.”

Fr Warren continued: “I don’t know how it happened. My assistant priest and I were close by and didn’t hear a thing.

“I went to bed at midnight and it wasn’t until a parent going into school the next morning told me of the damage caused.”

The church is hopeful the insurance will cover the cost of the damage, otherwise further fund-raising will need to be carried out.

There are plans for further renovation work across the church ahead of its 200th anniversary next year.

Police are asking people with any information to contact 101 quoting reference 196 080519.