Wellington, St Margaret of Antioch
The handsome medieval Grade I listed church of St Margaret of Antioch is an important feature in the Wellington Conservation Area. The building is notable for its roof carpentry, that of the south porch being particularly remarkable, and for the survival of three medieval bells. The church also has post-medieval furnishings of note, including a series of distinctive late Georgian wall monuments.
The chancel was heavily restored in the 1880s and most of the furnishings date from the late Victorian restoration. The churchyard contains a medieval cross, several listed table tombs and a war memorial.
Three bat species are recorded in St Margaret’s—Natterer’s bats, brown long-eared bats and soprano pipistrelles. Bat droppings and urine from the maternity colony of Natterer’s bats are widespread in the nave, aisles and transept. Covers are needed throughout the summer breeding season to protect the fittings, furnishings and memorials, and the constant need to clean up the bat mess, especially throughout the summer, places an onerous burden on the church volunteers.
Bats in Churches Class Licence surveys were carried out in 2019 by the registered ecologist and solutions focused on ways to reduce the impacts from the main colony of Natterer’s bats. The pipistrelles and brown long-eared bats are present in low numbers and only appear to roost occasionally in the church.
The roost spaces in the west tower, where most mess occurs, have been closed and new roosting boxes created in the less sensitive areas of the north aisle and north transept. The first stage of this work was completed in March 2021 and the second in April 2022. The Bats in Churches Project provided support for cleaning while the bat mitigation works were undertaken.
Monitoring of the bat population and the droppings show that these measures have caused a significant reduction in bat impacts, with a 75-85% fall in the amount of droppings inside the church. Although it is virtually impossible to make an old building like St Margaret's entirely bat free, the work carried out to date has helped to reduce bat impacts without harming the bats.
In February 2020 and May 2023 children from Wellington Primary School visited St Margaret’s to learn about bats in churches.
The church held a celebration of the wildlife in the churchyard, including the bats, in May 2023 which attracted more than 100 visitors and raised money for church funds.