Thieves have caused thousands of pounds worth of damage to one of Harrogate's treasured historical churches, whilst stealing lead from its roof in an overnight raid.
Thieves are believed to have struck at All Saints Church in Ripley between 7pm on Wednesday (January, 9) and 8.15am on Thursday, (January 10). They drove through the main gate of the churchyard in a van, and stole lead from the roof of the grade II church, damaging the building in the process.
With family ties to the church stretching back hundreds of years, owner of the Ripley Castle Estate, Sir Thomas Ingilby, raised concerns over what he says has been a 'significant increase' in rural churches being targeted for their lead by travelling gangs.
He said: "The thieves will have reconnoitered the layout of the church and churchyard in the days before the raid, identifying the location of the lead and working out how to access the roofs concerned: someone may have seen one or more people acting suspiciously in the vicinity of the church during that period: they will have looked out of place.
"The church is in the centre of the Ripley Conservation Area, with houses as close as 30m away on the north side - but the roof is well screened by the dense yew trees in the churchyard. None of the neighbours heard or saw anything on the night in question.
"The thieves drove a van through the main gate into the churchyard, performing a three-point turn between the gravestones and parking behind the church on the south side, which isn’t overlooked by any houses. They used ladders to scale the lower roofs of the side aisles, chapel and vestry on the north and south elevations and removed the strips of lead flashing and the lead valley gutters around the vestry roof, making a considerable mess in the process.
"They dislodged two large coping stones, causing one to crash onto the ground below and the other to end up lodged on a sloping roof. The cost of repairs will amount to several thousand pounds more than the value of the lead stolen."
"Traveling gangs based in Hull and West Yorkshire appear to be targeting rural areas: there has been a significant increase in the number of lead thefts in recent months, and churches appear to be the main target."
North Yorkshire Police are appealing for witnesses, or those with information to come forward.If you can help, call North Yorkshire Police on 101 quoting reference NYP-1012019-0102. To remain anonymous call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.