A Government-funded pilot programme to repair and enhance England’s listed places of worship was launched today by the Heritage Minister in Manchester.
The £1.8 million scheme, which will see expert advisors working with all faiths and denominations, comes in response to last year’s Taylor Review: Sustainability of English Churches and Cathedrals, which concluded that church buildings played a “vital role” in providing public services and a sense of identity to communities across the country.
The 18-month scheme will be run by Historic England and will test the recommendations made in the Taylor Review across the largely urban area of Greater Manchester. A second pilot will run in rural Suffolk.
The Taylor Review acknowledged how passionately people feel about church buildings, which constitute some of the most inspiring architectural and landscape elements of our historic environment. Its recommendations focus on targeting resources and funding to promote care, maintenance and community engagement, while supporting the volunteers and church members who work tirelessly to keep church buildings in use and accessible.
Heritage Minister, Mr Michael Ellis, said: “Historic faith buildings are a key part of our rich heritage and it is important they are protected.
“Every year thousands of volunteers dedicate a huge amount of time to their upkeep, but many need high levels of maintenance and repair. Through these pilots in Manchester and Suffolk, we will unlock the wider community potential of listed places of worship, and provide practical guidance to help preserve these much-loved buildings.”
The Bishop of Salford, John Arnold said “We are grateful that Greater Manchester has been selected for one of the Pilots. We look forward to working with Historic England and their team and to share with them our Catholic heritage and enhancing the provision of sacred space in our communities.
I am hopeful that the pilot will help to explore the idea that Churches can serve the needs of wider audiences by simply being churches, offering a spiritual space to all comers. Particularly as places of beauty, quiet and peace they can provide much value to visitors of all faiths or none, particularly if accessible to all throughout the day, away from the noise and constant secular distractions of our everyday lives”
Sophie Andreae, Vice Chairman of the Patrimony Committee of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales said: “This initiative is warmly welcomed. There are many historic Catholic churches in need of funding for urgent repair and since the HLF closed its dedicated grants programme for historic churches last year accessing funding for repairs is proving extremely challenging. This pilot will help to assess the needs of such buildings so that policies can be put in place to ensure that these important historic buildings are not lost”.