12th century church gets modern touch

A HISTORIC 12th century church has become one of the oldest in the country to install solar panels.

St Bridget’s Church, at Chelvey, built almost 900 years ago, will be saving on its energy bills after having 15 photovoltaic panels put into one of its two ancient roof ridges.

Funding the �11,000 project was not the only challenge for the parochial church council and congregation of just 20 people.

Its age and being a Grade 1-listed building meant permission had to be sought from the diocesan advisory committee, before planning consent was granted by North Somerset Council and English Heritage.

Backwell company, Solarsense, worked closely with the church’s architect, choosing dark panels with a minimal-reflective finish to blend in with existing roof slates, which were fitted to the church’s least visible roof slope.

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The church is the oldest in the Diocese of Bath and Wells to benefit from solar energy and is the third oldest in the country behind churches near Cheltenham and in Oxfordshire.

The system will generate more than 2,500kw each year, reducing future running costs.

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The church council will also save almost 1,400kg of carbon dioxide emissions each year by using less fossil fuel.

The congregation launched an appeal to update the building in 2007 and has so far raised enough to upgrade the heating system, repair the nave windows and leaky tower and buy a new organ.

Next year it hopes to provide a separate utility building in the grounds which will bring mains water on site for the first time and a new toilet.

Churchwarden Tony Stirratt said: “The results from our solar panels are even better than we expected and create an income for us.

“The utility building will be the final piece in the puzzle and we hope it attracts a few more people in.”

A cream tea will be held on Saturday from 2-5pm in the grounds of Bourne House, in Burrington, owned by a former Chelvey resident, to raise more funds.

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