O come all ye faithful and – help save our churches
Millions will be going to churches and cathedrals all over Britain this month to celebrate Christmas at a carol service.
But few realise that climates change is hitting these ancient buildings hard and many of these holy places could be at risk of closure or face huge repair bills if there is a bleak midwinter this year.
“As human behavior is heating up the planet, so the effects are wetter and windier winter weather which affect tall religious places badly,” said green energy expert Ron Fox.
“The problem is that higher levels of rainfall cause damage to timber and stonework, while more frequent storms and stronger winds threaten these bigger buildings with their roofs, towers and spires,” added Ron, of Noreus Ltd on the University of Keele Science and Innovation Park.
He was supported by the America author Bill Bryson, the vice-president of the National Churches Trust, who said that there were 900 churches on Historic England’s “at risk” register.
Bryson said that the NCT had received a record 593 applications from churches last year for maintenance and repair grants, a 37 per cent increase on the year before.
He added that it was a “national responsibility” for everyone to help protect historic churches which are Britain’s wonders of the world, but which are more at risk than many realise.
Together with the actor and TV presenter Michael Palin and the historian and broadcaster Bettany Hughes, Bryson helped organise a charity auction last month to raise money for the trust.
Said Ron: “Nothing symbolises the festive season more than a Christmas card with a historic church in the snow. But this is also the time when they are most at risk of serious damage from ice, rain and wintry weather.
“It can be expensive for churches and dangerous for people to carry out these surveys on damage to towers and turrets hundreds of feet up above ground using scaffolding and ladders,” he added.
For example, he said the oldest parts of Worcester Cathedral date back almost a thousand years to 1084 and it costs £7,500 per day to maintain the building. But he said the tower was 203ft high and it was very difficult to discover any repair problems in good time.
However, he said help was at hand for old churches and cathedrals from an unexpected source – new technology.
Drones are now being used to carry out aerial surveys to provide a bird eye’s view to assess the extent of damage and deterioration on high roofs and spires.
Already the National Churches Trust has used Heritage Lottery Money to use drones to survey churches and cathedrals.
Ron, who carries out drone and camera surveys, said: “This technology provides 3D computer images and very accurate data, far more easily and much more safely than via traditional surveying methods. This in turn helps the authorities decide how best to protect and preserve these buildings.”
For more information about drones and green energy call Ron on 0845 474 6641.