Managing historic parish churches

England is known for having outstanding heritage, and part of this is its historical parish churches. Historic England is working towards understanding the particular challenges that people have in caring for this type of worshipping place in our society today.

Even though there are more than 200 historic parish churches in England with a floor space of more than 1000m2, research has never been done to try to understand if there are any challenges of opportunities that make them harder or easier to maintain than the smaller 14,970 listed places of worship – until now.

Historic England, the Church Buildings Council, the Greater Churches Network, Doncaster Minster and Heritage Lottery Fund have created a partnership project to get an understanding of this type of church.

Research has involved sampling large buildings that represent sites across the country. These were carefully selected and dated from different periods and services different communities. Many other church were also included to provide valuable data – also these were smaller in size they were just as significant due to their history and expectations.

The research undertaken explores today’s physical condition of the parish churches and the resources available to repair, manage, maintain and sustain larger historic churches.

This project began in October 2015 when Historic England invited 80 sample parishes and Church of England dioceses to complete short questionnaires, covering the following five topics:

  • Attitudes towards the buildings
  • How they welcome visitors
  • Making changes to accommodate new facilities or activities
  • Who contributes to the care of the buildings and takes responsibility
  • Finances and funding

Fifty of those who completed the questionnaires were invited to participate in a follow-up telephone interview, with each building being the focus of a small case study. After this, twelve churches were chosen for a more detailed investigation, including a cross-section illustration of locations, roles, experiences and ministries. The representatives of the twelve churches undertook further interviews to provide deeper information of the daily challenges and opportunities associated with the use of these buildings. The project partners are indebted to everyone who took part in this research.

You can find out more about the project by watching this full film.