Hundereds of thousands of pounds worth of lead has been stolen by thieves targeting churches in Somerset in recent months.

Several Sedgemoor churches, including St Edwards in Goathurst, the Church of the Holy Cross in Middlezoy, St Michael’s Church in Brent Knoll, as well as churches in Meare and Kingsbury Episcopi have been hit.

Police have also received reports of similar incidents at churches in South Petherton, Bridgwater, Glastonbury, Barrington, Bradford-on-Tone and Ilton.

Colin Chalmers, honorary treasurer and organist at St Edward’s in Goathurst said: “Our incident was discovered at 9am on Thursday, December 19 at 9am.

“I investigated alongside a local builder and he confirmed the lead had been expertly cut in rectangles between the joists, and the ground by the chapel door showed that it had been rolled and dropped down.

“The thieves’ footprints – fairly small – could be seen but with the rain and later work by us disappeared. Photographs were taken of the roof and ground.

“It was not until a local police officer showed an interest in our problem and made further enquiries that an actual crime number was obtained but the police have not visited or taken any further statements in spite of what is obviously going to be a large financial loss from the lead to say nothing of potential damage within the chapel itself.”

Local builders volunteered to fix a tarpaulin roof, which Mr Chalmers described as ‘a great sign of community spirit’.

The Archdeacon of Taunton, the Ven Simon Hill said the thefts ‘were far from a victimless crime’.

Archdeacon Hill said: “Stealing lead from a church has an enormous impact on the church and its wider community.

“These thieves are using the cover of storms and bad weather to remove lead in the middle of the night when no-one is around.

“This means that not only is there external damage, but because of the heavy rain there has also been substantial damage to the inside of much cherished and cared for buildings.

“As a diocese we are speaking with the police to see how we can work together to help fight heritage crime and we are also investigating alternatives to lead on church roofs.

“All those affected are very much in our prayers.”

Avon and Somerset Police confirmed it had received a number of reports of lead being stolen from the roofs of churches in recent weeks.

Chief Inspector Martyn Cannon said: “These incidents can cause a lot of distress to communities.

“Officers have been visiting churches to provide reassurance and security advice around CCTV to try to prevent further thefts.

“Anyone with information is asked to call 101 and use the reference number 5220/054726."