A community has been left “devastated” after thieves stripped tens of thousands of pounds worth of lead from a church roof.

The lead was stolen on Friday night from All Saints Church, in Offord Cluny, forcing parishioners to install a temporary roof on the Grade-II* listed building.

Villagers only realised the lead had been stolen when piece of it was left by thieves in the churchyard because it had a distinguishing mark on it.

Volunteers were forced to spend the weekend covering the church with tarpaulin to help shelter it from bad weather.

Reverend Jes Salt, who is the priest in charge of All Saints Offord Cluny, said: “It is such a shame that something like this has happened in the village. Clearly as a community we are devastated about this and we have very little lead left on the roof. We are not sure of the cost of the damage yet but I am estimating it will cost tens of thousands of pounds to replace, which is a considerable amount.

“There has been a collection of shock and sadness from myself and the church committee who put a lot of effort into looking after the church. We have covered it with a temporary roof and all of the services will continue as normal.

“If anyone did see anything suspicious on Friday night or Saturday morning please do let the police know as it could really help the church.”

The roof of the church along with the north roof has been stripped with hardly any lead left. The theft came just a week after hundreds of villagers joined services of remembrance held on Armistice Day in the parish.

Helen Ellis, a parishioner, said it was “dreadful” the church had been targeted especially when, only a week ago, parishioners had been remembering those who died in the First World War.

She said: “The church was full the weekend before for the Armistice commemoration and the whole community came together. A week on and it's had all the lead stolen. This weekend is the Christmas Tree Festival where all the local organisations decorate and display a tree in the church. There is also a big craft fair in the hall with Father Christmas visiting, all to help the church funds.”

The church was built in the 13th century.

Police have said that they are now investigating the thefts and urge anyone with any information to come forward.

A spokesman for Cambridgeshire police said: “We were called at 9.59am on Saturday to reports of a theft of lead from the roof of All Saints Church in Offord Cluny.

“Thousands of pounds worth of lead is believed to have been stolen.

“Anyone with any information is urged to call police on 101, quoting incident 156 of Saturday, November 17, or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111 or via www.crimestoppers-uk.org.”