A double disaster has hit two local churches where thieves stripped lead worth as much as £200,000 from their roofs.
Now church authorities are struggling to look for ways to find money to repair the damage, which has seen the removal of many slates, leaving large holes and damage, including on one night when there was torrential rain.
The victims were Dalham Church and St James, at Icklingham, not many miles away.
Suffolk Diocesan secretary James Halsall said: “It is a disaster for them. The churches have been at the centre of communities for centuries.
“The thefts have damaged the psyche of their communities.”
He said at this stage there was no idea as to how funds could be raised for repairs or grants that might be obtained.
The most recent theft was at Icklingham and is now the subject of a police appeal for information.
Last Thursday, eight to 10 tiles were stripped from the roof and more would have been taken when the thieves, who could have spoken with Eastern European accents, returned to the scene but were disturbed at midnight as they had removed other tiles, thrown down to the graveyard wall folded and ready to load into a waiting vehicle.
They were interrupted by two villagers who called the police. Mr Halsall said they must have had a premonition to think the thieves would return the night after the first theft.
The vicar, the Rev Rosemary Rycraft, said there had been a lot of public sympathy following the Icklingham theft, which had caused dreadful damage to the church roof, with gaping holes. A local resident had carried out temporary repairs to make the roof water tight.
It was only recently a flower festival, related to World War One, was held as part of the village’s ongoing fund-raising called Project St James.
Now it seemed some of the funds would have to go towards repairs.
The roof at St James Church was accessed sometime between 8.30pm on Thursday, August 7, and 10am, Friday, August 8. Approximately eight to 10 lead roofing sheets measuring 5ft by 3ft were stolen.
Anyone with information about the crime should contact Pc James Greenhalf, at Mildenhall Safer Neighbourhood Team, on 101 quoting MH/14/1296 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.
At Dalham, the theft of £100,000 of lead at the end of July was described as absolutely shocking by Jane Green, church council secretary.
With only a small congregation there was no way it could raise funds.
A concert will be held on Saturday, September 20.