December 19, 2012 | Community News
The threat to an historic South Yorkshire church caused by the damage left behind by lead thieves has been removed with the help of a four-figure grant from a renewable energy firm.
St Wilfrid’s Church in Hickleton has been badly damaged several times in the last four years after the removal of the valuable material from its roof, with four and a half tonnes of lead being taken in the most recent incident and a large area of the slate roof also being ripped off during the theft.
Water getting into the building through the holes left in the roof caused substantial damage to the internal fabric and electrical circuits in the 800 year-old building, and in addition to the external repairs required, this all combined to leave Hickleton Parochial Church Council facing a large bill that their insurance company would not cover.
But now, thanks to a £9,131 grant from Banks Renewables, via its Banks Community Fund, the damage has been repaired and the Church has been made fully weatherproof once again.
The repairs have been carried out in consultation with English Heritage, the Diocese of Sheffield, Doncaster Council and Hickleton Parish Council, in order to ensure that the character of the church was properly maintained, and valueless imitation lead has been used in order to discourage thieves from visiting the Grade One-listed building again,
Local firm Fenton & Fenton was appointed to carry out the repair work, which involved replacing around 30 square metres of slate tiles and 75m of gulleys, as well as repairing and replacing parapets and stonework that were damaged in the raids.
Michael Woodland, fabric manager for the Hickleton Parochial Church Council, says: “Not only had the repeated thefts had a very visible impact on the building, but they’d also caused the amount of insurance cover we were able to obtain to drop very sharply, meaning we weren’t able to cover the cost of the repairs needed after the latest theft.
“The building had suffered significant interior and exterior damage, and while we were able to put sheeting across the gaps in the roof as a temporary measure, this would be blown out of place by any strong wind, leaving us at the mercy of the elements once again.
“The funding that Banks provided has been a lifesaver – we’d managed to raise some money, but fundraising is a difficult task in the present economic climate, and we couldn’t have undertaken this work without Banks’ help, so we’re extremely grateful for their invaluable support.
“We’ve gone from facing a very real threat of not being able to continue to use the church to now being warm, dry and fully operational again, and no longer having any lead on the roof will hopefully discourage any further unwelcome visitors.”
Sprotbrough ward councillors Jonathan Wood, Doreen Woodhouse and Cynthia Ransome worked with Banks to identify the worthy cause.
Deputy Mayor Cynthia Ransome adds: “It was pleasing to work with Banks to help Hickleton church. It is an important part of the community, the lead theft was distressing and caused considerable damage. We are pleased that Banks Community Fund was able to help. Now the church has a new roof with the added bonus that the imitation lead will not be as attractive to thieves.”
Banks is the company behind the Marr wind farm, which sits to the west of junction 37 of the A1M, and which produces enough renewable energy to meet the annual electricity requirements of around 6,700 homes.
Part of the revenues generated by the wind farm will be used by Banks to fund a range of community and environmental improvements in partnership with local people over the next 25 years.
Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at Banks Renewables, says: “Both the importance of St Wilfrid’s to the local community and the PCC’s commitment to quickly repairing the damage done to this wonderful building is clear to see, and we’re very pleased to have been able to help get this work carried out before any further damage was done.
“Our aim is to deliver long-lasting economic, social, employment and environmental benefits to the communities in and around the areas in which we operate, and the projects we will be able to support using revenues generated from the Marr community benefits fund will make a positive difference to the area for decades to come.”