Lead Roof Survey

Published: Thursday June 9, 2022

PhD candidate Aimee Henderson at the University of York is conducting a research project into the significance of lead as a roofing material for English parish churches. An outline of her research is below.  PCCs with churches which have lead roofs, especially those which experienced lead theft are encouraged to complete the survey.

Lead is one of the oldest and most durable building materials. Its use in England has been documented as far back as the Roman occupation, although it is perhaps most known for its use as a roofing material, particularly on churches and cathedrals. However, lead theft has history almost as venerable as the use of the material itself, particularly with regard to churches. Given the high value of lead and the resultant risk of theft, there is a general lack of collated data on lead roofed churches with regards to their locations, distribution, and amount of lead on each building. Moreover, there is no framework of assessment which connects an historical understanding of the development, significance, and contribution of lead roofing to church buildings, with the practicalities of conservation and the risk of further loss following metal theft.

My PhD research, which is being part-funded by the Worshipful Company of Plumbers and Historic England, aims to address these issues by providing an overview of the significance of lead as a roofing material for English parish churches. I will also attempt to assess the current response to modern lead theft; mapping instances of theft which have occurred over the past 10 years. This will contribute to the development of a ‘framework of significance’ for use by policymakers, advisers, and decision-makers in better articulating the value of lead roofing and the impacts on significance following lead theft. Joining the dots between the architectural history of lead use and the practical concerns of contemporary lead loss.

The survey is intended to provide a national overview of lead roofing on CofE parish churches. This data will be mapped using GIS to identify trends which may relate to the locations of historic lead mining areas, transport routes, wealth distribution and the size and type of church etc. It should take no longer than 10 minutes to complete and is intended to collect information about the church itself. It will not identify the individual filling out the survey. Given the potential sensitivity of the data being collected, it will only be accessible by myself and my supervisor at the University of York (Dr Kate Giles). It will be stored on a secure, password protected laptop and hard drive and no data will be shared without the expressed permission of the individual filling out the survey. No identifiable data of individual church buildings or whether they contain lead will be made publicly accessible at any stage in the research.

The Survey is online here

Many Thanks


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