Lead thieves have caused around £7,000 worth of damage to an 11th century church in Hollington.
Andrew Beaumont, church warden at The Church in The Wood, said trespassers had ripped a 30m strip of lead from the roof of the Grade II listed church.
The theft was only detected when it rained last Tuesday and water began streaming through the roof.
Mr Beaumont said: “We were very fortunate we were actually at the church when it happened.
“It could have been left for days.”
Within an hour the hole in the roof was covered – but not before water had damaged the floor, which was only a year old, and part of a computerised organ.
“It’s a little peeving because we put a lot of work into decorating the room,” he said.
Tiles on the roof in the area where the lead had been were also damaged.
Mr Beaumont said: “It could have been a lot worse.
“The good thing is that we are covered for the major part of the loss.
“But it upsets people. They think – why have they do it to us?”
“All we want to do is help people.”
The theft comes several years after the church underwent an extensive restoration at a cost of £250,000.
Mr Beaumont said the work on the roof had cost around £30,000.
Preserving the decades-old structure was important, he said.
“We have a responsibility to past and future generations,” he said.
Fortunately the lead on the roof was marked with smart water – a traceable liquid marking system that is applied to items to identify thieves, Mr Beaumont said.
Police are appealing for witnesses to the theft.
Anyone with information should contact police by calling 101 and quoting reference number 10/10.