Metal thieves have struck several times in the Marlborough and Pewsey areas, targeting the valuable lead on church roofs.

Sgt Vincent Logue, deputy police commander for the Marlborough-Pewsey area, said all property owners with quantities of lead on their roofs should make access as difficult as possible and should also check that lead has not been removed allowing weather damage to buildings.

One man has been arrested following the theft of lead from the former Greyhound public house in North Street, Pewsey, and has been given bail while police officers continue to investigate that offence and others to see if there is any connection, said Sgt Logue.

“We have had thefts or attempted thefts of lead from three churches and from the former public house in Pewsey between July 17-22,” he said.

At All Saints’ Church in Burbage and St John the Baptist parish church in Chirton would-be thieves rolled up the lead on the roofs.

They left it to return at a later date to cart if off but the damage was discovered before they returned.

Not so lucky was St Mary’s Church in Great Bedwyn where a large amount of its lead, the value of which is still being assessed, was stripped away and removed.

Sgt Logue said villagers, particularly those living near churches, should report to the police any suspicious activity although, he added, some of the thefts took place under the cover of darkness.

Sgt Logue said the criminals went prepared with ladders to gain access to the roofs and he said in many cases they rolled up the lead leaving it on the roofs intending to return and carry it away on a later occasion.

All Saints’ at Burbage is part of the Savernake Team of Churches.

Parish administrator Debbie Brown said: “Luckily the thieves were disturbed when somebody living across the road heard noises and told her husband and they went outside and could hear the noises were coming from the church roof.

“The thieves made off just as the police arrived and I heard there was a bit of a chase but they got away.”

The lead was put back in place by a villager before any weather damage could occur.

No one was available to comment on the theft from St Mary’s Church at Great Bedwyn.