THE CHURCH OF SAINT LAWRENCE
TEXT / SCULPTURE
A story based on newspaper reports of an English church in Whitwell, that has its lead roof stolen fourteen times in a period of ten months. The nocturnal church roof thefts started in 2008 because of soaring global raw metal prices. This in turn was due to increased consumption of lead in Chinese and Indian electronics industries.
"In a small English village, called Whitwell, stands the 12th century church of Saint Lawrence. Built on a gentle grass slope and surrounded by an old cemetery, it is a typical example of Norman architecture, with characteristic rounded arches and massive proportions. In August 2007, the church roof started to leak; water was dripping in, threatening the medieval interior. It was discovered not only to be a leak but, in fact, a hole in the roofing: a considerable amount of the lead sheets covering the church roof had simply been ripped off. Shortly after the damage was repaired the same thing happened again - and again and again. In many cases the previous repair work had not even been finished before new holes appeared.
The church of Saint Lawrence is not the only one to lose its roof. It has been called the most concerted assault on churches in Great Britain since The Reformation, only this time, the target is not the religious artefacts but rather the very fabric of these buildings. A new wave of thieves is stripping off the skillfully laid medieval lead roofings: they are operating at night-time, simply climbing up and peeling off large strips of lead, usually around two or three hundred kilos at a time, and driving off with the stolen roofing.
Since August, in a period of ten months, the church of Saint Lawrence has been targeted no less than fourteen times. In desperation the Reverend David Hull has installed 24-hour lighting, CCTV cameras and marked the roof with special DNA paint but nothing has stopped the thieves: “It really is a nightmare. I don’t know an answer to it, but you try to find one because it’s your church that keeps being attacked."