Case Study: St. Michaels



   When Alan Chapman, Heritage Director at Matthew Charlton Slaters, undertook the re-roofing of the north isle at St. Michael’s Church in Elswick, Newcastle, he knew that the site would be vulnerable to crime and theft. Following a recommendation, he contacted Watchtower Security Services and asked Barry Robson, UK Security Sales Manager, to meet him onsite to conduct a free site survey and risk assessment and to design a bespoke solution.

In January 2021 alone, Elswick in Newcastle, has seen 332 crimes with the largest proportion of those crimes being anti-social behaviour, burglary and criminal damage including arson. It was this problem Alan faced when he considered the protection of the ancient church.

As the Heritage Director for Matthew Charlton Slaters, Alan’s focus is very much focused on the work around historic buildings, stately homes and churches and when asked about his concerns for the church, he focused particularly on lead theft which he describes as ‘an epidemic’. He’s been working on projects in the past where newly finished roofs have been raided overnight for the lead, with thieves using the easy access provided by the scaffolding. It was these experiences that has led him to search for an effective security solution.


St Michael’s is a listed building that has served the families and communities in Elswick since 1873. It is a proud history, but also a history that is not without moments of heartache including only just surviving the bombing of the Second World War. It is said to be one of the catholic architects, Dunn, Hansom & Dunn’s, finest compositions, a large structure which once presided over the terraces serving Armstrong’s Elswick Works. The high crossing is crowned by an octagonal lantern recalling Ely Cathedral. With this history of survival, Alan’s number one concern that it should suffer no more.

Alan’s work on St Michael’s was commissioned following a grant of £37,040.00 from the government’s Cultural Recovery Fund. His firm’s contribution was predominantly re-roofing of the North Aisle and associated timber repairs including the porch roof. It mean’t that the scaffolding needed would give easy access to a good quantity of both new and old lead as well as Welsh slate.

Barry assessed the location and recommended the WT-1 CCTV tower, a large, robust mobile mast with sophisticated cameras and equipment encased in a CE certified unit all offering CCTV surveillance 24/7. It has achieved Secured by Design (SBD) accreditation, an official police security initiative focusing on crime prevention through ‘designing out crime’.

The towers are equipped with four thermal/optical turret analytics cameras, meaning they can quickly detect all types of intrusions in all weather conditions, minimising any resultant damage or loss. What’s more, line perimeter detection is linked to the monitoring station for instant detection of intrusion and crime. It was decided that St Michael’s CCTV tower would be powered with methanol/solar power due to the lack of accessible mains power.


Because the tower is monitored 24/7 and has 360° coverage, it can see far and wide across the site and also acts as a great visual deterrent to reduce the risk of chance crime. If anything happens, the key holder and the police are called but if it’s something petty, the tower features an audio challenge function to speak directly to the intruder. If they don’t listen, then a 120-decibel alarm can be activated to further encourage them to leave.

Following a period of three weeks, the presence of the CCTV tower was hailed a successful deterrent with no theft or other crimes being detected. Sadly other churches in Newcastle cannot say the same. Lead thieves caused £20,000 of damage to the roof of St John the Baptist Church on Grainger Street, which resulted in flooding after it rained and water got into the chapel, dripped onto the altar, ran down the walls and also leaked onto the organ.

Alan has been delighted with the service from Watchtower Security Solutions and has already booked them for his next job. He said: “I can't fault Barry and his team. They're very professional and it is a very high profile, high-vis system. They were very prompt following my enquiry, they met me in person which I really liked and the quotes were quick to arrive. I would recommend them to anyone looking for security and peace of mind.”