The Grade II* medieval church of St Peter sits within the Little Rissington Conservation Area, a short distance from the village in an elevated picturesque position overlooking the Windrush valley.
The church is of high archaeological, architectural and historical significance for the surviving medieval fabric and due to its modern association with the nearby former RAF station established at Little Rissington in 1938. During WWII the No 6 Flying Training School was stationed there, as was a Royal Artillery anti-aircraft battery.
The churchyard contains an RAF memorial monument and includes an area set aside for servicemen who died while stationed at RAF Little Rissington between 1938 and its closure in 1976.
At the western end of the nave there is a memorial stained glass window depicting a Red Arrow aircraft to commemorate the association between Little Rissington and the RAF Aerobatic Team.
The fabric of the church is mainly late C12th and C13th, including some Romanesque arches, and the tower was added in C15th. The church was restored several times in C19th and the north aisle, roofs and most of the furnishings date from that period.
Bat surveys in 2017, 2019 and 2021 revealed that St Peter’s is home to a small maternity colony of brown long-eared bats, which have their babies in June–July. Pipistrelle bats have also been recorded in the church but are not thought to be roosting in it.
The bats fly about inside the church leaving urine stains and droppings on the pews and in the main aisle, as well as on the window sills and other surfaces. During the summer, when the maternity colony is present, the problem gets worse, although droppings have also been found in the winter months.
A member of the Bats in Churches team visited the local primary school, The Rissington School, in early September 2019 and gave a presentation to the Y5 and 6 children about bats in churches. This helped to spark local interest in a bat walk around the church in mid-September, led by a member of the Gloucestershire Bat Group. In October 2021 children from The Rissington School visited the church to learn first-hand about why churches are important for bats and the issues this can sometimes cause for church heritage and those who care for the church.
As a result of these activities the PCC at St Peter’s decided it would like to invest in some bat detectors for periodic bat walks when the weather and conditions allow, and to offer the use of these to The Rissington School to be used by Y6 as a part of their science curriculum. A couple of Echo Meter Touch 2 Pro bat detectors were purchased using separate funding from Tesco Bags of Help. These tiny devices turn smart phones or tablets into high quality professional bat detectors. As well as making the bats’ ultrasonic echolocation calls audible to humans, live sonograms can be viewed in colour on the device screen, providing an exciting visual image of what a bat’s echolocation call actually looks like.