MEMBERS of a grade I-listed church serving two small villages are facing an uphill fundraising task after conservation bosses insisted on high quality repair materials after metal thieves struck.

It is estimated £30,000 will need to be found after metal thieves launched a night-time raid on St James’s Church, in Baldersby St James, between Thirsk and Ripon, last year stripping lead off the side aisles’ roofs.

Following the theft, large sections of the roof of church, which also serves as the village hall and is used by the neighbouring primary school, have been covered plastic sheeting to keep it watertight, but the parochial church council believes unless urgent repair work is undertaken, the damage could increase.

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The church was designed by leading Victorian architect William Butterfield, who later designed cathedrals in Perth, Scotland, and Melbourne, Australia, and was built between 1855 and 1857.

It is regarded as a superb example of High Victorian style and English Heritage, which oversees the conservation of listed buildings, has agreed with the Diocese of York that replacing the lead would unaffordable and present a further opportunity to thieves.

English Heritage has said terne-coated steel would be an acceptable alternative.

Church council member Susan Brown said it was hoped to fund a proportion of the repair work through a lottery grant, but the community of 307 houses in Baldersby St James and neighbouring Rainton had been left facing a huge task of raising the remainder.

She said: “It is a massive headache. The buck stops with the church. Nobody comes along and says they will help.

Mrs Brown said following the ten-year survey on the church, the church council was facing having to fund work on the exterior caused by two severe winters.

She said: “We need to raise on average £10,000 a year to just maintain the church, so we will have to find the money roof repairs on top of that.

“It is asking an awful lot of people in the two villages, but we don’t want to get to the stage where the state of the roof gets beyond us."

An English Heritage spokeswoman said: “We advise the Heritage Lottery Fund on applications to their grants for Places of Worship Scheme, which exists to help repair historic churches in the greatest need up and down the country.

“We have not received an application from St James's for repairs to their roof, but one could be considered if all other sources of funding have been exhausted.”

To kick-start a series of fundraising events, Mrs Brown’s husband, Chris, a farmer and mountaineer who has scaled Everest, has organised an event featuring leading mountaineers Doug Scott and Paul Braithwaite, titled Big Walls and High Mountains.

The pair will recount tales of climbing the world’s highest peaks in which they pushed the limits of climbing to new heights, on Wednesday, November 6, at 7pm, at the church.

For tickets or to help with fundraising, call 01765-640398.