Lead stripped from iconic theatre roof

Lead stolen off the roof.
Lead stolen off the roof.

Lead thieves could bring down the long-running project to restore Morecambe’s Winter Gardens theatre, it is feared.

The 117-year-old venue’s water-tight roof has been targeted again with damage estimated to cost up to £2,000.

It happened in the three days leading up to Wednesday, March 5, and at the end of February.

Evelyn Archer, chairman of the Friends of the Winter Gardens charity, which she founded in 1986, said: “We are desperately trying to raise funds to put things on in the Winter Gardens and keep it in a condition where we can use it. This is like going one step forward, two steps back.”

Evelyn, who also leads the gardens’ preservation trust which bought the theatre in 2006, fears the insurance company will not keep paying out if the roof continues to be stripped.

A three metre section of lead and flashing, which looks similar to the material, was removed in three places in the latest incidents after access was gained from the roof of a neighbouring business. The charity reported the theft to police on February 24.

Evelyn explained: “I was showing someone round the theatre on the Sunday, it was pouring down outside, and water was coming down the right hand side of the building. Someone had tried to take the lead off the roof and had carefully removed a lot of tiles.

“On Wednesday, some volunteers went up onto the roof and noticed they had been back again and tried to get more lead. There was a roll of it on the roof and we thought maybe they would come back for it so someone is definitely targeting our roof.”

In October 2011, £15,000 of lead was stolen from the building. A man was prosecuted and fined £65 but Evelyn said the courts should be tougher.

She added: “I don’t think they’re being hard enough with these people. There is nothing discouraging them from doing this kind of thing. We are now going to install CCTV up there.”

The theatre closed in 1977 but a campaign to protect the building and fully restore it has been ongoing for 28 years.

Michael Comber, who is repairing the damage, said: “It’s a bit soul destroying. We are trying to get the building up and running for the good of the area and someone’s trashing it.” Call police on 101.