At the heart of the small, hilltop Rutland village of Cold Overton, this modest, Grade I listed church dates back to C12th, although most of what stands today comprises additions made in C13th, C14th and C15th.
The church was restored in late C19th. The south nave aisle is adorned with rare C13th pre-Reformation wall paintings on two of the lime-plastered walls. The wall paintings were restored and conserved in 2018 with funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
A kitchen area and accessible toilet were installed in 2019, enabling St John’s to become an active and thriving community hub for the village, which has no shops, pub or village hall facilities.
St John’s supports maternity colonies of around 250 adult female soprano pipistrelles and about 20 adult female Natterer’s bats, both of which predominantly roost among the roof timbers of the nave.
The droppings and urine from these colonies damage the wall paintings, add to the cleaning burden on the church volunteers, and put some people off coming to church.
Over a period of 5 years (2018 to 2023), under the guidance and supervision of experienced bat ecologists, three bat compartments were constructed within the nave roof for the soprano pipistrelle colony, which is responsible for most of the mess inside the church.
Although the bats use these compartments, they are nevertheless still finding ways to get into the main body of the church, creating a significant amount of mess. St John's has numerous access points and roosting places, which means it has proved impossible to exclude the bats.
The Bats in Churches project provided funds for cleaning and for new ways for the church to raise money, connect with visitors, and celebrate its heritage and history.