Distinctive Norfolk church is repaired after bats cause delay

Billingford church, which has seen its roof repaired

Billingford church, which has seen its roof repaired - Credit: Billingford PCC

Repairs have been carried out to the roof of a distinctive Norfolk church after the project was held up by the presence of bats.

St Leonard's, in Billingford, near Diss, required extensive renovation work to stop rainwater from getting in and damaging the building, which has served as a place of worship for more than 800 years.

The need for the work was first identified in 2017, but it took several years for the congregation to raise the funds needed.

Further complications were also added by the need to carry out survey work on the population of bats which were found in the roof.

The church, which is part of the Redenhall with Scole Benefice, is distinctive as its tower - which may never have been completed - is the same height as its nave. Despite its diminutive size, the art historian and architecture critic Nikolaus Pevsner devoted more than half a page to the church in his seminal study of listed buildings.

The need for repairs was identified by an architect’s survey in 2017 which found tiles in a very poor state. If not repaired within five years the roof would have started to leak.

As well as raising the £25,000 required, the congregation also had to consider the impact of the repair work on bats found in the building.

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Permission for the project was required from Natural England and the Bat Conservation Trust, and survey work had to be carried out. This was undertaken during the summer of 2019, with the help of volunteers from the congregation and Suffolk and Norwich Bat Groups.

The survey found Common and Soprano Pipistrelle bats, using a bat detector, as well as Natterer’s and Long Eared bats, which were identified from droppings and feeding remains.

Permission was finally granted to carry out the repairs - but with the stipulation it could only be carried out in April, or between September 15 and October 31, to avoid the creatures' breeding season and periods when they should be hibernating.

Scaffolding on Billingford church, as repair work is carried out

Scaffolding on Billingford church, as repair work is carried out - Credit: Billingford PCC

The repairs, which have now been completed, were funded by the award of a £4,000 grant from the Wolfson Foundation/National Churches Trust, together with grants from Allchurches Trust (£3,000), the Bishop of Norwich Fabric Fund (£1,000), Garfield Weston Foundation (£5,000), Geoffrey Watling Charity (£3,000), Norfolk Churches Trust (£2,000), along with local support and donations.

Brian Nunn, a member of the church council who acted as coordinator for the repairs, thanked all those who had helped. "Thanks to all members of the Parochial Church Council, to the generosity of the grantees - who, themselves, found their income stream reduced because of Covid - and to the many people who donated to the roof fund and helped and supported our fundraising, and the volunteers who helped with the bat surveys."

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