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When lightning strikes are you protected against this act of God?

The nature of church architecture means they are particularly prone to lightning strikes. The very act of projecting the building towards heaven with a tower or spire – to glorify God and to act as a landmark for miles around – works towards them attracting lightning.

The issue of lightning protection in churches is one that has exercised this publication for many years. In this four-part series of spotlights on the issue we will be revisiting various aspects of the subject, beginning with an overview of current thinking.


The nature of church architecture means they are particularly prone to lightning strikes. The very act of projecting the building towards heaven with a tower or spire – to glorify God and to act as a landmark for miles around – works towards them attracting lightning.

gns“Churches have always suffered from the effects of lightning.” That is the very start point of guidance published jointly by Historic England and Ecclesiastical Insurance. The document comprises a detailed summary of the history of church approaches to lightning strikes over the centuries, in particular the number of instances some buildings seem to have fallen victim. It quotes R H Golde, writing in his 1977 work Lightning Protection, as noting that the campanile of San Marco in Venice was hit and either severely damaged or destroyed no fewer than nine times between 1388 and 1762.


G & S Steeplejacks have recently installed a new Lightning Protection System on Bitton Hill House, near Bristol, in line with BS EN 62305:2011.

For further information on the company and the services they offer visit www.gnssteeplejacks.co.uk

In Britain the effects have not been so severe, as we suffer comparatively fewer strikes per hectare than elsewhere.


Lightning protection and steeplejacking body passes third quarter century

This year marks the 75th anniversary of ATLAS, the body representing lightning protection companies and other access at height specialists. Its members have been at the forefront of the lightning protection and specialist access trades for many years and undertake access, inspection, repair and maintenance work on a range of structures – in particular churches and heritage buildings.

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Early approaches by ecclesiastical authorities seem to have been that, as lightning is an act of God, there is no justification or need to attempt to protect a church against it. That attitude changed in the 19th century as technological advance resulted in the development of lightning protection systems based on the Franklin rod – a single metal rod leading to earth, in churches also known as a ‘tower-only’ system.

Until recently the great majority of churches still had that kind of basic protection, despite the introduction in the last century of a British Standard, BS6651, that recommended the more sophisticated Faraday Cage system, described by Ecclesiastical Insurance as ‘a mesh of conductors at intervals laid over the roof and down the walls of the building, and connected to earth by earth electrodes’.

When dealing with the issue of lightning protection in ancient or listed churches, as with any historic building, consideration has to be given to conservation issues.

In the joint Historic England/Ecclesiastical Insurance document Lightning Protection for Churches – a Guide to Design and Installation the policy of Historic England is stated thus:

New guidance published


To comply with the current British Standard, the majority of buildings should have their lightning protection system tested every year. As this is highly specialist work, it is crucial that it is carried out by a specialist contractor with the knowledge and experience to ensure its continued safety to the recognised UK standard.

Click here to find out more about Historic England's new guidelines for your premises.

“The installation of a lightning conductor implies in most cases the fixing of equipment to the fabric of a building. English Heritage seeks to ensure that any works to a historic building do not unnecessarily disturb or destroy historic fabric.“In deciding how best to protect a church from the effects of lightning the principals of minimum intervention and reversibility should be adopted wherever and whenever possible.”

In the same document Ecclesiastical points out that, although lightning protection is not a condition of cover “…installing lightning protection, as part of a risk assessment strategy, together with its on-going maintenance and testing, not only serves to protect the building for future generations to enjoy, but should help to reduce claims costs in the longer term.”

In 2008, a new European standard came into play: BS EN 62305. The new standard is considerably more complex than its predecessors and includes a requirement for a risk assessment to determine the level of protection required and sections devoted to both structural damage and risk to life, as well as damage to electrical installations and equipment.

Ecclesiastical Insurance has published a short guidance note to the main points of BS EN 62305. The company states: “This is only a brief summary of a very complex subject. Specialist advice must always be sought before installing any electrical equipment and installation must only be undertaken by competent persons.


Lightning protection: the new standard explained

In May Historic England began a series of webinars aimed at providing technical guidance for owners and operators of historic buildings, as well as contractors and heritage professionals. Tagged as Technical Tuesdays, the webinars are presented by senior members of Historic England’s technical conservation team.

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“The design of a lightning protection system should be carried out by a specialist such as a consulting engineer, preferably a member of the Association of Consulting Engineers, with experience in lightning protection systems.”

Similarly, the company states that the installation should only be carried out by a competent and experienced contractor specialising in lightning protection systems.

A more extensive explanation of the differences between the old and new standards is the subject of a further joint publication, which allows updates of specific guidance documents. Again, it is a given that specialist advice should be sought.

The document states: “The most significant changes are the approach and enlargement of the risk assessment process and the inclusion, within the main body of the text, of specific guidance on the application and testing of surge protection devices as part of the risk assessment calculation.”

In future issues we will be considering the different kinds of damage that lightning can cause and the various ways of defending churches against it, and the issue of lightning protection in non-ecclesiastical historic buildings.

You can find an expert near you in our directory here

Ecclesiastical & Heritage World Rodell Ltd Ecclesiastical & Heritage World Lightning Protection Services
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Historic bottle kiln works by Horizon

Horizon was called in by the operators of this disused historic bottle kiln to offer a solution to ‘temporary job’ undertaken by others in order to weather seal the kiln.

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A complex and high risk major repair made the more easier by a touch of kindness

The Tower and Spire of St Thomas’ Church in St Helier Jersey stands approximately 196 feet above ground level. The Tower is 33.83m (111ft) in height and the Spire is 25.9m (85ft) in height. The Tower and Spire are constructed from Brittany Granite and is of mid Victorian Gothic design.

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Lightning can be a benefit as well as a threat

To many people the idea of lightning being anything other than a threat to life and property would be unthinkable; but in a recent blog on their website, Nottingham-based Lightning Strike Ltd have pointed out that in many ways lightning can have a positive impact on the natural world.

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Stop churches from suffering the effects of lightning

Direct Strike Ltd are a business that specialises in safeguarding people and properties against lightning. As a result, they feel that it is their duty to do whatever they can for their customers. One thing they do for them is supply the most effective lightning protection testing Carlisle has to offer. The team carries out comprehensive checks and leaves nothing out.

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Video takes us on a lightning journey through 75 years of history

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Association of Technical Lightning and Access Specialists (ATLAS) – the trade body that represents the lightning protection and specialist access industry. To celebrate this poignant milestone in its history, ATLAS takes us on a journey through 75 years of history in a new video, comparing landmarks in its history to worldwide events.

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Horizon help to restore Nottingham Council House clock

Horizon Specialist Contracting’s Steeplejack division were recently contracted to help undertake the repairs and restoring of the Nottingham Council House clock for the first time in 25 years. Standing at 42.7m a team of three Steeplejack engineers over a period of three weeks abseiled from the roof of Nottingham’s Council House to replace sections of steel on the clock face which had rusted and rotten over the years.

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Grade 2 Listed accommodation - Coventry

Rafferty Lightning Protection have been appointed to deliver a brand new BSEN 62305 Lightning protection system to a Grade II Listed former Hospital complex which is being converted into Student accommodation.

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Temporary renewals implemented for lightning conductor engineer and steeplejack CSCS cards

The Association of Technical Lightning & Access Specialists’ (ATLAS) Council has voted in favour of temporarily amending the standard CSCS card renewal requirements for its sector, due to coronavirus severely restricting access to training. This has meant the suspension of the requirement for an Anchors for Steeplejacks and/or Working at Height for Lightning Conductor Engineer course in order to renew blue or gold Steeplejack and/or Lightning Conductor Engineer CSCS cards.

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A C Wallbridge upgrade lightning protection at Romsey Abbey

A C Wallbridge carrying out the upgrading of the lightning protection system to the latest British Standard BS-EN-62305 at Romsey Abbey. Engineer Jake can be seen getting some rope time in.

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New lightning conductor system that’s up to standard

Horizon recently removed an old and inadequate lightning conductor system from a church and replaced it with a new and up to standard system in line with BS EN 62305;2011

The old single bare copper down conductor had oxidised over the years and was not pleasing to look at, this was not helped by the unsightly installation of the tape by the original installer that had it running down the middle of the clock face of the church tower. Horizon removed the old tape by installation steeplejack ladders to the summit of the church spire and then using rope access techniques abseiled down the spire to remove the old tape and fixings..

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Does your business require lightning protection?

Here in the UK, we’re blessed with relatively calm weather. However, while we might not be subjected to hurricanes or tornadoes, we do get our fair share of electrical storms. On average, the UK and its surrounding waters are hit by around 300,000 lightning strikes every year, and while these powerful displays of nature are stunning to watch, they also pose significant risk to both people and structures.

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Lightning protection for historic properties

Lightning protection for historical buildings is particularly important in order to protect and preserve the heritage of the building. However, as Adrian Brown of Nottingham-based Lightning Strike Ltd explains, historic buildings weren’t constructed with lightning protection as a consideration, so it’s important that the appearance of the system doesn’t appear out of character and intrusive.

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Lightning strike causes structural damage to lighthouse

Over one weekend in August last year it was reported that a staggering 90,000 lightning strikes hit the UK. The Old Hunstanton Lighthouse in Norfolk was a victim of one those strikes and the photograph shows the severity of structural damage that can occur as a result of direct lightning strike.

The structural damage caused to the lighthouse, and the subsequent risk the falling brickwork and masonry posed to the residents and members of the public, emphasises the importance of having an up to date and certified lightning protection system fitted to your building to prevent costly structural damage, or worse, loss of human life.

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Lightning protection: the new standard explained