Unique thermal heating installed at Bath Abbey

Rod Minchin, PA

Work to install eco-friendly heating in Bath Abbey using hot water from the city’s Roman baths is close to completion.

The new system, which is being switched on this week, has seen underfloor heating pipework laid in the famous abbey.

A total of 10 custom-built EnergyBlade heat exchangers have been installed to collect heat from the thermal spring water that flows through the Roman drain from the baths and down into the River Avon.

Every day around 1.1 million litres of hot water flow through the drain which stays a constant 40C all year round.

The Rector of Bath Abbey, Canon Guy Bridgewater, looks at the completed thermal heating works inside the famous Abbey (Ben Birchall/PA).
The Rector of Bath Abbey, Canon Guy Bridgewater, looks at the thermal heating works (Ben Birchall/PA)

Energy will be extracted from this water to produce enough heat to warm the historic abbey as well as the adjacent row of Georgian cottages that house the abbey offices, song school and volunteer facilities.

Renewable energy company Isoenergy has installed the system, which is part of the £19.3 million Footprint refurbishment project.

Canon Guy Bridgewater, rector of Bath Abbey, said: “We’re very grateful to everyone involved in making this eco-friendly dream a reality.

“So many people have played a vital role, not least Bath and North East Somerset Council, who by granting us the lease of rights to these waters, have enabled us to achieve a sustainable solution for heating our beautiful historic church.

“Previously the abbey heating system, which dates back to the Victorian era, was energy inefficient and expensive to maintain.

Bath Abbey restoration
Heat is collected from thermal spring water flowing through the drain from the Roman Baths (Ben Birchall/PA)

“But now instead we’re able to harness this previously unused natural resource.”

Edward Levien, commercial director at Isoenergy, said: “We’re very proud of our work on this heat pump project, understood to be the first of its kind, which will source its energy from Bath’s world-famous hot springs.

“Working in the Roman drain’s humid and confined environment brought a new set of challenges for our engineers.

“We had to do the work in short 20-minute sections as that is as long as a person can safely and effectively work down there.

“What’s more, we could only get all the equipment down into the drain through a manhole inspection cover on York Street, and it all then had to be lowered the seven metres to the floor of the Great Drain.

“However, these are all minor inconveniences when we consider this remarkable achievement – we’re very proud of our team and how hard they’ve worked to deliver this system that’ll enable the abbey to be heated with sustainable and low-carbon energy for generations to come.”