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Last updated 27th June 2023

Metal and Stone Theft

Sadly, the incidents of stone and metal theft to churches and churchyards in our diocese is on the increase. These thefts are distressing for people in the parish but can also cause thousands of pounds of damage to church roofs, paths and masonry. This page offers some advice to help prevent metal and stone theft and what to do when theft happens at your church.


Prevention of theft

Ecclesiastical Insurance has provided the following guidance for churches on actions that they can take to help mitigate against the risk of metal and stone theft;

  1. Engage with local neighbours asking them to keep and extra watch over the church premises, reporting any suspicious activity to the police immediately. Take a note of the vehicle registration number of vehicles involved.
  2. Communicate with your neighbours, send flyers telling them they will be informed if any work is planned at the church. Often, offenders appear to be genuine contractors wearing high viz jackets and using builders vans.
  3. Review security to the churchyard perimeter. Ensure all gates are locked when the church is not in use to restrict access.
  4. Consider introducing security lighting to illuminate unlawful visitors where there is a reasonable level of surveillance from neighbouring properties.
  5. Mark stonework with a forensic security marking solution, such as SmartWater. Vulnerable stones could also be marked with unique overt marking.  
  6. Work with local police and ask your community support police officer to include the church in their daily duties.
  7. Share your actions with the local press to spread the story to act as a deterrent.

Further guidance on preventing metal and stone theft can be found below:

Additional guidance on security can be found here:

What to do if a theft occurs at your church

  1. Inform the police and report the theft as a Heritage Crime. This will ensure that the theft is priorised and reported to OPAL, a national taskforce who monitors heritage crime cross-country. 
  2. Inform your insurance company who will offer further advice.
  3. Inform your archdeacon and the Senior Church Buildings Officer.
  4. Contact your inspecting architect or surveyor who can offer advice on making the the area safe and watertight in the interim, and who can draw up costings for repairs.

How theft of metal can affect your insurance claim

Smartwater: The application and registration of SmartWater (or an approved alternative), along with the display of prominent signage is a condition of Ecclesiastical Insurance policies . If you do not meet this policy condition you will not be covered for theft or attempted theft of metal, or the subsequent damage.

Roof alarms: For some churches that are particularly vulnerable to such losses, Ecclesiastical Insurance require the installation of an approved roof alarm to benefit from increased cover. If you install an approved roof protection system then churches have unlimited cover for theft of metal claims. More information can be found here. Grants for roof alarms are available from the Benefact Trust.

Cover for theft of metal when scaffolding is to be erected

The presence of scaffolding on any building can seriously compromise general security. Because of this insurance policies normally exclude theft of external metal (normally on roofs) when scaffolding is erected. However, Ecclesiastical Insurance do offer some cover subject to various conditions.

What cover is available?

When a church with external metal is having scaffolding erected for repairs or other building work we may be able to provide insurance cover up to the limit of your building and/or contents sum insured for theft of external metal and for any subsequent damage.

What do we need to do to qualify for cover?

A church must meet the following minimum requirements:

  •   You must have applied SmartWater (or an alternative forensic marker approved by Ecclesiastical), put up the warning signage in a prominent position and registered the product.
  • You must have installed a roof alarm to a specification approved by Ecclesiastical which is linked to a monitoring service and is regularly maintained.
  • You must put the arrangements in place that are detailed in the checklist.



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