THIEVES have heaped more misery on officials at a Huddersfield church.

They clambered on to the roof of Christ Church Woodhouse, in Sheepridge, and stripped lead off the roof.

And now parishioners – who have suffered several previous crimes – are anxiously waiting to see what damage has been caused.

Tiles have been removed from parts of the roof and they fear any heavy rain will cause damage inside the building, which dates back to 1828.

The theft is the latest problem for the church, which has previously suffered break-ins and a spate of vandal attacks which left valuable stained glass windows broken.

Builders are set to inspect the latest damage today before repairs can be made. Emergency sheeting already has been rigged up over the organ as it is immediately below one area stripped of lead.

Church council member Alan Danielson said: “It is very distressing. The damage was found on Monday but as yet we do not know the full extent.

“They have somehow managed to climb up to the highest point of the roof, removed some tiles and then taken off the lead, although in other parts they have left the lead there. Police think they may have been disturbed.

“We will be talking to the builders who are coming to do the repairs about finding an alternative. Many years ago when we had lead stolen, it was replaced by a plastic liner which is of no use to the thieves.

“It’s not very good news. It is hard enough trying to keep up with the routine maintenance of a building that is so old without having to cope with thefts.

“We had a spate of incidents some years ago and had to have the stained glass windows repaired and covered with plastic sheets, which makes them less attractive but hopefully safer.”

Police are investigating the theft and have appealed for information.

Lead thefts from church buildings has become an increasing problem in recent years due to its soaring value on the international metal markets.

One church was reportedly hit 14 times so far this year as thieves returned again and again to take the new lead each time it was replaced.

2010 was the third worst year on record for the theft of metal from churches, with 1,484 claims costing the insurer more than £3m. Lead has nearly tripled in value over the past three years, topping £1,500 per ton this December compared with £570 at the end of 2008.

In Huddersfield, the worst crime in recent years was at St John’s Church, in Birkby, where thieves trying to steal the copper lightning conductor wrenched down the top of the spire, damaging the building below.