HEARTLESS thieves who caused tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage to an ancient, Grade I listed church have been branded ‘disgraceful’.

Thieves climbed up St Peter’s Church in Bywell in July and made off with lead from its roof – but police are yet to apprehend a suspect.

The Norman church’s North Chapel had all of the lead in the roof stolen, while gullies and lead flashing were also taken.

The chairman of Bywell Parish Council, Ian Gillespie, blasted the thieves.

He said: “I think it’s absolutely disgraceful that somebody takes things from a church.

“It’s very disappointing that we have people travelling into the area that are then doing things like this.

“It’s outrageous that people are stealing from any church, but this is supported by the local community. It’s just not right.”

Rev. Dr Pat Moran said the extent of the damage would not have been known, were it not for the help of a drone.

Rev. Moran said: “A member of the public alerted us to it. When I went to have a look around, it looked like the lead flashings and some gullies had been taken.

“A member of the congregation’s husband has a drone, so we could have a look at the top. We realised that they’d taken all the lead off the north chapel roof. 

“It’s a flat roof and we wouldn’t have known without the drone.”
Pat added that while insurance will cover the cost of repairs, the bill is likely to hit £20,000 or even £30,000.

“The church is so isolated so we’re very vulnerable to this type of crime. Nobody nearby had heard anything. It’s money we don’t want to have to lose. It’s an ancient church, it’s got that lovely sense of timelessness, it’s a very spiritual place. 

“A lot of people are very affected by it and very angry. It’s not nice, but in the current circumstances, there’s a lot of things that are a lot worse. We just have to try and put it right.”

Any repairs may be made more difficult by St Peter’s listed status.