Lead thieves strip St Mary’s bare on eve of Christmas

St Mary's: Croydon's oldest building, now stripped of all lead from its roof

By Andrew Pelling
It’s not exactly the Christmas gift that St. Mary’s Church in Addington Village expected.

The church is the latest victim of high-value metal thefts that have seen copper wiring disappear from railway lines and an iconic Hepworth sculpture stolen from Dulwich Park.

In a bit of old-style theft, the lead on the roof of the Grade 1 listed church has been stripped, badly damaging the structure in the process and leaving water pouring into the nave. Some pews are now cordoned off in a church that is full at Christmas time.

Hilary Florence, the treasurer of St Mary’s fund-raising committee says, “Croydon people should be outraged that the oldest building in the borough has been damaged in this way.”

St Mary the Blessed Virgin Church dates from Saxon times. The decision in 1808 to move the summer residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury to Addington lead to a 19th century “sponsorship” of St Mary’s from the highest ecclesiastical level. Five archbishops are buried at the church.

The church has bells dating from the 14th and 17th centuries.

While the value of the lead stolen was worth less than £2,000, the amount of damage done to the church is going to cost more than £20,000 to repair.

The brute force of ripping out the lead has compromised the roof and much water damage has been done. The theft is not the first that the church has suffered with the vicarage previously losing all its lead.

The church has learnt from that experience and will be using cheaper modern materials to make good the repairs.

The fund-raising committee will be launching an appeal for £45,000 for the church repairs. The parish office can be contacted on 01689 842167 and stmaryblessedvirgin@tiscali.co.uk if Inside Croydon‘s regular reader feels that they have some special generosity in them this Christmas time.
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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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