Neighbour's quick action after copper stolen from church roof

Exterior of St Michael's Church in Letchworth

Copper has been stolen from the roof of Letchworth's St Michael's church - Credit: Archant

A church permanently closed last year due to insurmountable repair costs to the building has had copper stripped and stolen from its roof.

St Michael the Archangel on Letchworth’s Broadway was only dedicated in 1967, but the building has been beset with problems from the outset.

The design was largely experimental and inspectors have found inadequate materials were used during construction. The copper roofing, for instance, is thinner than the copper specified in the original drawings, and the building has leaked since it was built.

Following a routine inspection in December 2019, St Michael's was temporarily closed due to safety concerns.

The closure was made permanent at the end of 2020, with the prospects of finding the £80,000 needed for investigative works diminished by the impact of the pandemic on church income.

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St Michael's has now been targeted by thieves. A spokesman for the Diocese of St Albans said: "A quantity of copper was stripped from the roof, but a vigilant neighbour spotted something amiss and diligently alerted the police, limiting the damage.

"The building has been secured against wind and water ingress and continues to be monitored regularly.

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"The damage to the building does not delay or frustrate the process to seek the permanent closure of the building as a place of worship. This process involves deciding how the parish, with its two churches, St Michael's and St Mary the Virgin, will be joined with neighbouring parishes. This process, governed by law, involves public consultation, giving the people of Letchworth a say, and is expected to take until at least the middle of the year.

"The second stage of the process is seeking a new use for the building, if one can be found, which also involves public consultation."

The Archdeacon of St Albans, the Venerable Jane Mainwaring, said: "2021 looks like being an eventful year for St Michael's, but I join my prayers to those who hope it will have an outcome that is good for the worshippers and parishioners of St Michael's and Letchworth as a whole.

"The Parochial Church Council is committed to seeing that the Church of England can continue to serve the people in this part of Letchworth in the years to come."

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