Many of our historic church buildings have archaeological, architectural, artistic or historic interest that merits statutory designation.
Nationally, about 14,500 places of worship are designated as listed buildings, and so ecclesiastical buildings play an important role in maintaining some of our most important heritage.
However just because a church building is listed doesn't mean that changes cannot be made to it. Listing is a recognition that the building is significant and that if changes are required, that they are carried out through the appropriate consents process (Listed Building Consent and/or Ecclesiastical Exemption), in a sensitive way, that respects and complements its historic heritage.
Indeed if our church buildings are to meet the needs of the communities, continue in its mission and adapt to changing worshipping styles it is critical that they evolve and continue to develop, as they have done over the preceding times.
Making sensitive changes to historic buildings
Before making changes to a church building it is important to identify the building's significance. What is it that makes it special? What are its architecture, historic features or associations or archaeology? Understanding these will help identify where changes can be made and what sensitivities need to be taken into account. Any changes are likley to harm or result in a loss to the historic fabric and this needs to be weighed against any public benefits the proposal will bring.
This information is brought together under a Statement of Significance and Statement of Need.
A Statement of Significance should include:
- Grading - date of listing and list description
- Historical origins, significant benefactors, architects, craftsmen
- The building's landmark value and its contribution to local character
- How the building has altered and changed over time, including notable internal additions
- Details of churchyard (listed memorials), landscape setting and tree preservation orders
The Statement of Significance will develop understanding of the building and increase awareness of its importance.
A Statement of Need should set out:
- What are you trying to achieve
- The benefits of what you are wanting to achieve
- How this fit with the mission of the church
- The financial impact of the proposal - running costs, additional income generated, environmental sustainability, staffing
- Timing - why now?
- Context - future demographic changes, existing provision in the area
- Evidence - how do you know there is a need?
- Options - what alternatives have been considered.
Places of worship at risk
The Heritage at Risk Register identifies sites that are listed and at most risk of being lost as a result of neglect, decay and inappropriate development. It helps identify funding priorities for our most vulnerable and at risk buildings.
Church buildings are assessed for inclusion on the register on the basis of the condition of roofs, gutters, downpipes and high level stonework.