Bats in Churches Project
To see Chris Bernwood's video of the St George's bats, please click here.
St George's Parish Church
The Parish Church of St George’s West Grinstead is situated in a quiet and secluded spot on the banks of the river Adur.
St George’s Project
The church of St George’s has lived with its roosting bats for many generations. However, Bats became a particular nuisance following the reroofing of the church in the 1990’s but now, although not a risk to health, do present a problem in trying to keep the church clean and welcoming for the congregation and visitors. They also inflict damage on several nationally significant monuments in the church. Such fittings currently shrouded in muslin for protection, include several marble monuments by Michael Rysbrack, Nathaniel Smith, and John Flaxman.
We have been working with specialists appointed by the organisation Bats in Churches (formed of a partnership between Natural England, the Church of England, Historic England, and the Bat Conservation Trust) and a proposal has been jointly prepared and accepted. We are indeed fortunate that Bats in Churches has chosen St George’s as one of its major funding projects this year. The outcome is a wildlife, environmentally friendly, project which should improve the habitat of the bats whilst aiding the preservation of the church for the future community use.
Essentially the project centres around the lining in wood of the ceiling of the Nave and South Aisle, thereby allowing the bats freely to enter the spaces they use and roost, whilst separating them from and hence protecting, the people and furnishings from the hygiene issues relating to bat urine and faeces. The new roof lining is designed to match the existing ceiling in the chancel.
This work necessitates an extensive electrical overhaul including replacing current ceiling height infra-red heating and lighting. This provides the opportunity to reduce the church’s environmental footprint by installing modern energy efficient, ecological lighting and heating. Some of this work must be done before the new roof lining can commence.
The project is governed by a Bat Licence issued by Natural England and must be completed at a time when the disturbance to the bats is minimal and therefore will commence early September 2021 and must be completed by the end of November 2021.
The works will involve a series of contractors who will be working at high level in the church which means that the church cannot be used during the day and for security reasons will be closed at other times. The church will be open for normal services every Sunday. It is hoped that we can upgrade the heating system during Bat Licence period to compensate for the removal of the high level outdated radiant heaters.
Project Work in Detail
Install cedar boarding to exposed rafters to ceilings in the south aisle and nave to allow a more suitable space for the existing bat population to roost without causing harm or nuisance to the existing fabric of the church and the people who use it. The work to be carried out under protected species licence.
Replacement Lighting Scheme
As a preliminary to installing the ceiling, remove the existing chandeliers, high level spotlights, and dated overhead infrared heaters.
Replace the dated wiring and luminaires with new fittings (note the existing chandeliers will be re-lit, rather than replaced). First-fix wiring installation for the new fittings before the installation of the ceiling. New fittings would be installed immediately after the ceiling works being completed.
Chandeliers will then be rewired and rehung.
Tower Louvre Works
Adapt the existing louvres in the tower to prevent bird access whilst allowing the bats additional opportunities to roost, in the tower.
Replacement Radiator Scheme
The church building is currently heated by a combination of overhead infrared heaters, and traditional hot water radiators at ground level. The overhead heaters will be removed permanently. Following a survey and environmental advice received, more efficient low level, hot water radiator system will be installed, continuing to use the current boiler and much of the pipework.
Perimeter radiators are to be used to carry out ‘conservation heating’ as well as controlling and stabilising the relative humidity within the building, whilst under pew heaters would boost the heating during services and events, improving the thermal comfort of congregation members.
The ceiling works require that environmental monitoring be carried out to ensure that the proposed changes do not cause any damage to the present fabric of the church. The PCC are using the additional information gathered to assess the long-term needs of the church structure and are taking advantage of this opportunity to start a long-term restoration programme, so important for ancient buildings.
Hydrology monitoring as part of the environmental monitoring is to be carried out at the base of the walls as part of the permission. This includes digging external test holes under archaeological supervision to determine water penetration into the walls at ground level.
The new heating system is designed to reduce the humidity within the church thus reducing the deterioration of the stone walls
All drains and rainwater goods are being assessed for their suitability and being replaced as necessary.
More About St George’s
It’s a beautiful Grade 1 country church dating to Saxon times. It is home to many important monuments, including tombs from the 14th century, one recording a person who fought at Agincourt. The church must once have been at the centre of a bustling community but is now surrounded in the immediate vicinity by fewer than ten houses. St George’s, is nonetheless an important prized and valued part of the heritage of West Grinstead and Partridge Green and a fundamental of their village identity.
The church has a distinctive worship tradition and identity which draws attendees from wide around districts, beyond the parish. All services are carried out according to the Book of Common Prayer with the musical support of an accomplished 4 part choir. Services are held every Sunday. St George’s has a fine main organ dating from 1846 which is a category A Listed organ in the Chichester Diocesan List and a chamber organ dating from 1785, carrying a Grade 1 Historic Organ Certificate.
It is popular choice for major family events, baptisms, weddings and funerals and well attended on key religious calendar dates. On Christmas Eve the church is full to overflowing (200 people) for the Christmas Eve candle lit service, with the church’s reputation for high quality music and its special spiritual atmosphere drawing many travelling from districts all around. It is renowned for amazing floral displays across the whole church.
The church also hosts concerts and recitals and its churchyard is a venue for the annual St George’s festival and fair. All these events contribute to the local economy , and the church supports local suppliers and businesses where it can. In return the community supports the church’s care and upkeep through the activities of the Friend’s of St George’s.
The building is open 365 days of the year. Its appeal as a place of peace and contemplation is attested by the large number of passing visitors it receives. Whilst not on the main road, many people make a detour to see it and it welcomes a lot of walkers as it lies on a popular walking route. In short, the church has a unique community atmosphere and footfall from way beyond the immediate vicinity.