Where Heritage Properties Are Vulnerable to Theft

Where Heritage Properties Are Vulnerable to Theft

This isn’t a how-to guide.

After reading this article you won’t be a listed building master criminal.

30 years ago heritage properties were behind when it came to security.

As time’s passed and technology’s become more affordable, more sophisticated security systems have been installed.

Heritage properties aren’t as vulnerable to theft as they used to be.

But some areas are overlooked.

And before you think we’re giving criminals new ways to sneak into your home. We aren’t.

We’ve said it before, criminals are persistent people. They know how to get into a property.

You’re not a criminal, so you’ll never think to enter a building in any other way than by a door.


English church on a hill amongst houses

So where are these areas?

Vulnerable areas don’t need to be on a building.

They’re areas of the estate that aren’t often visited. They’re also social and geographical.

Before you think you’ve finished setting up your security consider these areas:

  • The 1st and ground floor
  • Outbuildings
  • Side and rear
  • Your community
  • Hiding places on the property
  • Low roofs
  • Fire escapes
  • Access to cellars
  • The size of the property
  • Estate publicity
  • Complacency
  • The property aesthetic
  • What time of day is it?

What makes them vulnerable and how can you turn these weaknesses into strengths?


The Ground and 1st Floor

Here are the areas you’ve got locked down tightest.

This is where the valuables are.

And, unless you’re Tarzan, the ground floor will be the most common entry point to your building.

So, what makes it a vulnerable area if it’s already secure?

They’re the most popular way into your building for criminals.

With so many windows and doors at ground level, it’s easy to see why?

On the other hand, the first floor isn’t as accessible.

What makes it vulnerable is the lack of security up there.

Your local friendly criminal knows it’s not as secure as the ground floor.

So they break a window, slip inside, pinch your valuables and exit the same way.

If you want to know the best ways to secure your first floor read this article.

 Large Beige House in Open Landscape


It’s all good and well securing the main building, but what about all the other places on your property?

The workshops, chapels, cattle sheds, and gatehouses.

Even if they don’t have valuables inside there’s still lead on the roof.

You don’t need us to tell you what no lead on a roof will do to your property.

So installing security around your complex is going to make it that much harder to steal from you.


Side and Rear

You’ll have strict security at the front of your property.

You have security cameras, or you can hear and see anyone that comes past.

Heritage properties are big, many are very big.

Unless you’re a bat, you won’t be able to hear what’s going on all the way around the building.

Adding security cameras to the side and rear of your property too will let you do just that.

Traditionally, the side and back of heritage properties aren’t as protected.

Public access to listed buildings tends to be at the front, so that’s where the security is installed.


Your community

Managing an estate or church means you’ll have a community of people involved in the day-to-day running of it.

You’ve probably got a very tight-knit group of people.

A good community of people is one of the best defences against crime.

They’re great at spotting unusual behaviour.

They see the comings and goings and know almost everything that happens.

Yet, when they’re in public after work, an innocent comment about scaffolding going up can be overheard by anyone.

Inside information is invaluable to heritage property thieves.

Speak to people in your community and ask them to keep any information that’s sensitive private.


Hiding places  

Your heritage property is most likely quite big.

Bigger than a normal house, smaller than Luxembourg ... probably.

That means there are lots of little nooks and crannies to hide in.

So, when someone sneaks into your property there’s nothing to stop them ducking out of site.

And with such a big property, you can’t look everywhere.

Besides, what will you do once you find a person hiding?

Motion-detecting security cameras are an excellent way of knowing when someone is inside your property.

Without having to put yourself in danger.


Low Roofs

We’ve said in past articles, remove anything that will help a criminal get into your property.

It’s always as easy as that.

Your property might have lots of small buildings and low walls that can easily be used to gain height on your property.

You can’t exactly lock them away.

And you certainly can’t know them down!

But they’re a vulnerable area on the property.

There’s usually no public access to these areas so it’s commonly overlooked for security on listed buildings.

Motion sensors, cameras and lighting are a great early warning system and deterrent for these locations.

 Large heritage property with low roofs

Fire Escapes

Very important for when you want to escape fire.

Very useful when you want to access a property’s upper floors.

There’s no need to get rid of it. You’ll need it one day.

Fire escapes come in the same bracket as low roofs. You can’t exactly get rid of them.

But you can do your best to make them as unappealing to heritage property criminals as possible.

Lights, cameras, motion!


Access to cellars

You’ve secured the high points. Now let’s think about the low ones.

Under your property, you’ve probably got a cellar.

Your cellar might be full of wine, old artefacts, or junk.

For ventilation, you’ll have a small hatch in the cellar. As your cellar is below ground that hatch is probably at ground level.

You don’t need to be a genius to work out that any criminal with a bit of nouce will use it to crawl inside your property.

Once inside, unless your cellar is accessed from outside the property, a criminal can roam freely inside the building.


The size of the property

Big buildings can cause big problems.

And we’re not talking about energy costs and dry rot.

A property the size of yours has more than one way in.

On the building itself and the surrounding land, there could be dozens of ways to get on undetected.

Often you’ll use the main gate and front door.

Occasionally, you’ll go through a side entrance put not very often.

We regularly get customers saying:

“We’ve got cameras on the main entrance, but they came in another way”.

To stop your property from being vulnerable to theft you must have security covering every access point.

Criminals will have done their research; they’ll know where your security is before trying to steal something.

Cover all the entrances with security, that way you’ll know when someone’s coming in through a different entry point.

Estate Publicity

It’s a battle out there.

You want to have the best social media presence and you do that by sharing every interesting thing that’s going on.

The more people who know about you, the more people will visit, book weddings, and buy merchandise.

There’s nothing wrong with that and we certainly don’t want to deter you from posting on public forums.

However, advertising roof repairs can lead to trouble (no pun intended).

Or saying the power’s down can make criminals think they’ve got an opportunity.

We’re not suggesting you’d be silly enough to publish the blind spots of your security system.

But be careful what you put out there.



If there’s one thing we’re all guilty of, it’s thinking:

‘It won’t happen to me.’

 The only people who don’t think like that are the people who it’s already happened to.

Living out in sticks is great.

It’s quiet and there are very few people.

People are more relaxed when it comes to crime.

Nobody’s going to come all the way out here.’

People in the local village don’t even know we’re here.’

‘We don’t have anything worth stealing.’

For those reasons, criminals think rural properties are easy targets. There are fewer police and people. Meaning they’re less likely to be seen.

All it takes is a quick look on the internet to find numerous articles about the rise in rural crime:

The Property Aesthetic

We’re very proud of our heritage properties in Britain.

Nowhere else in the world can you find such a high density of beautiful historic buildings.

It’s very reasonable that you don’t want to ruin a building’s beauty.

There are some things that it’s worth compromising for.

Yes, security cameras can be ugly. But we’ve come a long way since big white brick cameras.

Our own camera range comes in black – designed especially for rural properties. And if that doesn’t do it for you, just paint them.

There’s no need to put your heritage property at risk of theft. Especially if you’re worried a camera will make it look ugly.

The Time of Day

Thieves, criminals, and vagabonds come out whilst you’re tucked up in bed. Right?

It’s true this is when they’re most likely to get away unseen.

Yet this is when your property will be locked down the tightest.

You’ve locked all the windows and doors and set the alarms.

Breaking into the property will be a tall order for anyone with poor intentions.

Ask yourself, when are you at your most vulnerable in your home?

If the doorbell were to ring at 7am, you would probably answer the door without question.

It’s at this point a criminal can walk into your heritage property through the front door. It’s not a busy time of day, it’s still low risk for them.

Vulnerable times of day are 7am - 8am and 7pm - 8pm. When, someone knocking is unusual, but not ridiculously so.


Church on hill with missing roof


It’s very difficult to completely lockdown a heritage building.

There are many different aspects to consider and you’re all too aware of planning permission difficulties.

We’ve seen people try to enter properties in some very peculiar ways.

Many owners believe that once they’ve added a few PIR sensors they’ve done enough.

If your heritage property has public access, anyone who wants to attempt a theft can come on and look at what security you have.

They’ll have seen all your security in the main areas. They know they can’t get in that way.

But they haven’t seen security in the rest of the property.

Outside-of-the-box thinking will keep criminals outside, where they’re supposed to be.


Frankly, when it comes to heritage property security, you can’t go too far.

The key thing is to identify the opportunities to get into your property.

  • Secure popular entry points like the ground and first floor
  • Do you know what’s going on at your outbuildings?
  • Don’t just protect the front of your property.
  • Does your community know what’s a sensitive subject?
  • Identify where people could hide
  • Can people use low walls or rooftops to gain height?
  • Fire escapes are an easy way to get above security
  • Cellars are easy entry points.
  • Is there more than one way to get onto your property?
  • Don’t publicise sensitive content
  • Heritage theft can happen to anyone
  • Don’t compromise security to maintain aesthetic
  • What time of day is it?

Not all aspects of this list will apply to you but if you can identify with just one, you’re on the way to enhancing your security.

Now you know where to add security on your property, read this article on how to do it.


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