A CHURCH is calling on the community for support after eight tonnes of lead was stolen from the roof overnight.

The theft at St Alban's Church in Frant, near Crowborough, means it is left with only a tarpaulin to cover the roof going into the winter.

Rev Brendan Martin, rector, estimated the cost of replacement will be more than £20,000 and has urged the community to rally around the historic building.

Rev Martin said: “If we don’t fix it come autumn the weather will do massive damage to the church.

“We have had a bit of rain but with just a plastic sheet it’s hardly going to keep out the weather.”

The Argus: Pictures of the church roof reveal the extent of the damagePictures of the church roof reveal the extent of the damage

The theft happened in June. As well as stealing the lead, the thieves damaged stonework around the church.

Lead is often used as a long-lasting means of weatherproofing historic buildings but is also expensive and is often targeted by thieves.

Sussex Police said: "Metal thefts of this kind not only have a financial value, but also hugely affect our cultural heritage and local communities.

“Such is the scale of this offence, it is believed to have been committed by criminals who operate across the UK as part of an organised crime group."

To help raise some of the money for the roof replacement, St Alban's has organised a series of concerts with proceeds going to the upkeep of the building.

The Argus: St Alban's Church in Frant near Tunbridge WellsSt Alban's Church in Frant near Tunbridge Wells

They include Christian Garrick and The Budapest Café Orchestra as well as jazz favourites Don Vappie and Jazz Creole.

Rev Martin expressed his excitement at hosting Vappie, who is considered one of the best banjoists of all time from New Orleans.

The concerts will be on Friday, October 21, and Wednesday, November 9, and tickets can be bought from the church website.