Metal Theft

The theft of metal from churches is occurring on a weekly basis across Manchester. As well as lead being stripped from roofs, thieves target church interiors for memorial plaques and ornamental metal work, copper and even garden of remembrance plaques.

With the problem showing no sign of abating, church insurer EIG has warned that churches will no longer be covered for metal theft unless they comply with its SmartWater policy condition.

In 2010 there were 1763 metal thefts from churches across the UK, costing EIG a total of £1.3 million in claims.

What do parishes need to do now?

To ensure that parishes receive the benefit of the £5,000 policy cover for the replacement of external metal following theft or attempted theft and the £5,000 cover for subsequent damage, they need to take the following action now:

  • Check that each church has used the SmartWater kit supplied and that it has been registered with SmartWater.
  • Check that the SmartWater signage supplied with the kit has been displayed outside each church and is clearly visible.
  • Consider fitting a roof alarm.


EIG sent free SmartWater kits to every church in 2007. If you are unsure whether or not a SmartWater kit has been registered, call Smartwater on 01952 204102 to check your registration status.  

What is Smartwater?

SmartWater is a non-hazardous liquid which contains a unique forensic code. Churches receive their own unique SmartWater code meaning marked items can be irrefutably traced back to the owner, and criminals coming into contact with SmartWater can be linked with the crime scene. The solution is invisible under normal light, but glows brightly under UV light making it easily identifiable by the police.

Roof alarms

In 2012 EIG launched a campaign called 'Hands off our church roof'. Alarms are being fitted to church roofs to scare would-be metal thieves. EIG is fitting alarms to churches most at risk, and encourages other churches to purchase a roof alarm.

To download an EIG factsheet on roof alarms, click here.

For more information on the Hands off our church roof campaign, visit

What to do if you have had metal stolen from your church

The diocese has produced a new leaflet with guidance on what to do if you have had lead or other metal stolen from your church.

Download here.










What can you do to help protect your church from metal theft?

 Ecclesiastical recommends a wide range of security measures to combat metal thefts: 

  • Make friends with your neighbours – they’re the very best people to keep an eye out.
  • Consider anti-climb paint, CCTV, intruder alarms or security lighting if your church is particularly at risk.
  • Restrict vehicle access and remove ladders – make the thieves’ job harder.
  • Where possible, replace with less expensive materials to make sure there’s no incentive for the thieves to re-visit.

The replacement of stolen roof material will require faculty approval. A change of materials may also require consultation with English Heritage on a listed church building, and planning permission if it affects the external appearance.)

For more information

Visit for more guidance and to download posters to make people more aware of metal theft. If you have a query about your theft of external metal policy condition, please call EIG's church underwriting team on 0845 777 3322 or email

For the latest information and guidance on the theft of metal including lead theft from church roofs visit

Congregational Insurance Co has a website about lead theft from church buildings at

English Heritage metal theft guidance.