Lead thieves target Petworth House

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The National Trust is facing a £75,000 bill for repairs at historic Petworth House after thieves stole lead from the roof twice in a week.

Buildings surveyor for the National Trust Tim Cook told the Observer thieves got away with lead on Monday, June 13 and returned in the early hours of Thursday.

“But on the second occasion one of the neighbours on the corner of Lombard Street alerted police to strange goings-on close to their home.”

The thieves made their get-away, leaving a stack of lead piled up on the grass in the church yard.

It is believed they got into the grounds of Petworth House through the churchyard where the gates had been left unlocked.

“We are now making sure the gates are secure,” said Mr Cook.

“The thieves stole some six tons of lead in total, but we weighed the lead left on the grass which came to some two-and-a-half tons.”

He said the lead had been stolen from the roof of the Audit Room, the Leconfield Estate Office and the kitchen.

“The trouble is no-one lives in that part of the building, so nothing was seen or heard at the time,” he said.

The lead was worth some £1,200 a tonne for scrap, he said, but the repair bill at Petworth House would be some £75,000 to replace the lead and repair damage caused by the thieves.

“We have to put scaffolding up across the whole of the building and the bill for that alone is going to be tens of thousands of pounds.”

A spokesman for Sussex Police said: “A 24-year-old Aldershot man was arrested shortly after thieves were disturbed while attempting to steal lead from the roof of the servants’ quarters at Petworth House at 3.40am on Thursday, June 16.

“Police responded swiftly after the thieves had been spotted preparing to load a large quantity of stripped lead into a van parked in the grounds of the adjacent St Mary’s Church. The van sped off without the lead and police found it abandoned nearby soon afterwards.”

Further enquiries then led to the arrest later that day of the man on suspicion of attempted theft, and he was later released on police bail until 21 July.

Police said lead valued at around £9,000 had been stolen from the roof of Petworth House earlier the same week.