A COMMUNITY is counting the cost after their church was targeted by a gang of thieves in a crime which will cost £60,000 to put right.

Fundraising is now underway in a small west Dorset community after sheets of lead were stolen from the village's medieval church.

Thieves struck at the Church of St Andrew and St Peter in Toller Porcorum. Part of the crypt's ceiling was damaged in the process.

Michael Boardman, treasurer of the area's Parochial Church Council, has launched an appeal to help raise the money needed.

He said: "Thieves stripped the lead from one side of the roof of our lovely little church. They didn’t get it all, perhaps because they were disturbed or perhaps because of the noise that must have been made when one of the rolls of lead was thrown down and went through the ceiling of a crypt.

“We don’t know exactly how much this is going to cost nor how long it is going to take to put right, but our architect is talking about a frightening £60,000 or so.”

The church is also only expected to be able to claim around £15,000 of insurance money to help cover the costs.

Mr Boardman explained: “We do have insurance but, due to the prevalence of lead theft, the amount payable is limited to £7,500. There is another £7,500 to cover subsequent damage such as the crypt repair, but we have already spent the best part of £1,000 of that for the temporary protection.

He added: “Apart from the indignation that criminals have had the audacity to steal the lead, it is heart breaking for members of the Parochial Church Council and their many helpers who work so hard each year to raise funds to keep the church going.

“It takes about £14,000 a year to meet all the necessary expenses so to suddenly be faced with all this is quite a blow. And it is not just a financial problem; there is so much time being taken up on so many different aspects of the affair. We will get it sorted eventually but we could do with some assistance.

“Villagers have always been very generous in their support of the church. This cause, however, is in a league of tis own. We have already been exploring different sources of funding, but this online appeal is very important. So, please make a donation, big or small.”

Police are investigating the theft which happened overnight on January 8. If you saw anything which might help the investigation call 101 quoting incident number 55190004624.

If you would like to make a donation to help repair the church roof visit the JustGiving website and search Toller Porcorum’s Church Roof.

According to the National Churches Trust, the high demand for raw materials has seen an increase in the theft of metal, typically lead, copper and steel. Churches are particularly vulnerable to this type of crime, particularly those in isolated areas, and a lead roof can prove a desirable target for a thief.

Because many roofs are not visible from the ground the damage caused by a theft can remain undetected for some time and can lead to major problems with water ingress to the building.

The cost of lead theft from a church is not just about the replacement material but the subsequent damage caused by the rain to the interior.