Steeplejacks and specialist cleaners have been called in to clear a huge amount of waste left in a historic Stamford church by roosting pigeons.
On Monday, a major operation to clean the tower and spire at St Mary’s Church got underway.
The work is expected to take two weeks to complete and will cost the church around £30,000.
It will also see new wire mesh panels fixed to louvres in the spire to prevent birds gaining access in future.
The Rev Gavin Cooper said pigeons had been a long-standing problem at the church.
He said: “I have been here for three years but the issue dates back much further than that – probably 20 years or more.
“Pigeons are finding their way into the spire and are creating a huge amount of waste.
“The bell chamber is filthy and we have had to temporarily stop the clock to ensure it is not damaged.
“The clean-up work is costing us a significant amount of money, but it is necessary to protect the building and its contents from damage.
“We have bird waste dropping down into the sacristy where we store our vestments and which also acts as the parish library.
“It is very unpleasant indeed and something we cannot leave any longer.”
Books in the parish library, mainly on the subject of theology, date back to the 16th century and are stored in a large wooden cabinet.
Various attempts at keeping pigeons away have been made over the years – including keeping a peregrine falcon inside the tower – but all have ended in failure.
St Mary’s Church will remain closed to the public during the work. Services are temporarily being held at nearby St Martin’s Church.
Father Gavin said he expects it to reopen in time for worship to resume on Sunday, April 2.
St Mary’s Church dates back to the 12th century, with the tower and spire being added in the 13th and 14th centuries.
The clock, built in 1890, normally chimes every quarter of an hour but was temporarily stopped four weeks ago.
It will be cleaned and serviced when work in the tower and spire is complete.
The cleaning project is being led by Millennium Pest Control and Cedars Steeplejacks.
Strong winds earlier this week meant the work had to be delayed.
Father Gavin added: “Because the spire is hollow, the easiest way to carry out work is by using ladders to climb up the exterior, entering through a window and abseiling down inside.
“It’s amazing seeing the steeplejacks in action. The building is so huge they look like ants scurrying up the side of it.
“We had a lot of strong winds early on this week which meant they had to stop work, but they are planning to work through the weekend to stick to the two-week schedule.”
Father Gavin said St Mary’s Church is need of extensive restoration work, which is likely to cost several hundred thousands pounds. Initial applications for grants to cover the costs will be made later this year.