Bat surveys in Sudbury Gasworks

05 Mar 2024

When we first visited this Grade II listed building back in 2017, it was in a very sorry state. Built in c. 1874 to manufacture gas from coal for use in the adjacent Sudbury Hall and neighbouring village houses, it had fallen out of use by the 1930s and slowly deteriorated to the point it was listed on the buildings at risk register. We were drafted to conduct bat surveys ready for the renovation.

We worked closely with Sudbury Gasworks Restoration Trust and project manager, Lucy Godfrey, who spearheaded the restoration of the building as a space and venue for use by the local community.

We carried out a series of bat surveys that showed the building to be used by brown long-eared and Natterer’s bats for roosting. Working with the project architects, James Boon Associates, and specialist contractors, H. A. Briddon, our bat survey was comprehensive. The bat survey revealed roosting and access provision for bats was designed and installed to enable bats to continue to roost within the building following the completion of works.

The outside of Sudbury Gasworks prior to bat survey Brown long eared bats found roosting below tiles of Sudbury Gasworks A shot of Sudbury Gasworks during renovation and survey work Retort House roof at Sudbury Gasworks

As well as roosting and access provision below the ridge tiles, bats can access and roost within the ‘retort house’. This is in the central part of the building. It has a fireproof, wrought-iron roof supporting structure and is almost unique in being one of the few remaining examples in the country. The retort house roof was painstakingly dismantled, restored off-site and rebuilt like-for-like, including careful lime mortaring. An egress point for bats was fashioned into the decorative vent on the gable end wall to enable bats to gain entry.

We supervised the careful removal by hand of the roof tiles. Several brown long-eared bats were found roosting, tucked between the tiles and underfelt, and carefully removed from harm’s way and placed in bat boxes on nearby trees.

The Gasworks has been beautifully restored and is a credit to all those involved.