We’ve all heard the expression “bats in the belfry.” Traditional church architecture offers plenty of roosting spaces for bats – and not just in the bell tower! But even churches built in a non-traditional style, and places of worship from other traditions, can provide refuge for bats as well as people. Over the years, the National Bat Helpline has answered queries from Anglican, Catholic, non-conformist and Eastern Orthodox churches; Buddhist and Hindu temples; and several Friends’ meeting houses!
At least 60% of pre-16th-century churches in England host bat roosts, with at least eight UK species roosting in churches on a regular basis. Around the world, bats also live in temples, synagogues and mosques, often becoming part of a building’s history. Some roosts in places of worship are thought to have been used for centuries.
Very often, bats and human congregations coexist peacefully. Where issues do occur, there is help available. For example, Anglican churches that are experiencing problems may want to get involved with the Bats in Churches Project. We have plenty of advice and answers to frequently asked questions on our Bats in Churches web pages.
Planning work to a place of worship
If you look after a place of worship (of any faith) in England and are planning relatively minor works, or experiencing issues associated with a bat roost, you may be eligible for Natural England’s free advice service. We recommend getting in touch as soon as you know the works are needed. You don’t need to have proof that bats roost in the building.
If you’re outside England, you’ll need to engage an ecological consultant for advice. If the building is a church in traditional architectural style, we suggest that you assume it has bats until a survey shows otherwise. If it’s a more modern building, you may find our guide to identifying a bat roost helpful. When in doubt, we always advise having a survey.