LEAD set to go on display to help tell the history of a Bilborough church has been taken by thieves.
St Martin of Tours Church, in St Martin's Road, is undergoing a £100,000 renovation largely funded by English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The work included the removal of lead from high up in the church tower which was marked with the names of workmen and visitors.
It was set to go on display at the church but thieves broke in at around 12.30am yesterday and took it.
Churchwarden Hilary Wheat said the theft was "malicious". She said: "They attempted to break into the medieval porch, which really is a disturbing sight.
"Then they have knocked a fire escape door off its hinge.
"The lead dates back to the mid-19th Century, around the 1860s.
"It's been marked by workmen and we can trace who these workmen were and where they lived."
The marks include dates, initials and names as well as outlines of feet and hands.
Marks had also been left by visitors who climbed up the tower to enjoy views of Wollaton Hall.
Ms Wheat said: "This is an attack on St Martin's Church and the local community.
"They have not taken care, they have ripped half a gate off its hinge. Any burglary is awful but they have damaged an old building and taken a significant thing. It's a real violation."
She said fundraisers had worked hard holding events to raise cash for the renovation.
Ms Wheat believes it is possible the thieves visited the church before the theft, as they would not have known the lead was there.
The Rev Amanda Cartwright said she was shocked at the incident.
She added: "A lot of people have worked hard to raise money and to get the building restored.
"This church is at the heart of the community and it has brought people closer together."
She also said the lead was "really historic."
"It showed marks which the original roofers would have put on it and hand and footprints from tourists who would have gone up the tower," she said.
Sergeant Ian Cresswell, of the Broxtowe Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: "The theft of lead is an issue of concern in Nottingham and the wider county, and churches are being targeted.
"While our inquiries are continuing into this particular theft, two people were arrested last night in the city by officers responding to another report of lead being stolen. The two incidents are not being linked at this time."
He added: "These thefts affect entire communities, whose members attend or use church buildings, not just for worship but a whole range of activities.
"Churches also have limited funds for replacing or restoring the stolen lead, which exacerbates the impact of the theft itself by imposing unnecessary costs upon them."
Anyone with information about lead theft should call Notts Police on 0300 300 9999 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
With all the lead thefts in local churches why did they leave it unguarded? The diocese is well aware of all the thefts and should have thought about this. I doubt it will ever be recovered.