11 May 2006
The Bishop of London, Dr Richard Chartres, has welcomed Inspired!, the English Heritage five point plan to assist historic places of worship. The plan was launched today (10/05/06) at St Mary Magdalene Paddington by Simon Thurley, CEO English Heritage and the Bishop of London.
Speaking at the event, the Bishop stated:
“This has been a valuable exercise providing confirmation of the current picture while acknowledging the huge achievements by congregations and volunteers throughout the country. In many ways, it is a success story but the question for the Church of England, with 13,000 listed buildings, is whether it is sustainable.
“The places where churches are vulnerable include obvious candidates like rural Norfolk but, more surprisingly, some centrally located churches are also at risk.
“The funds being requested are very modest but Inspired! has set out some important principles. There is no need for any new bureaucracy to administer these funds, rather the theme is capacity building amongst those already caring for the churches. This distribution of funds through networks on the ground is an important principle and is a key part of this stitch in time approach.
“We also welcome the proposals to re-examine the Grade 1 category. If we can define more clearly what it is in the case of each church that is worth preserving, then there will be greater flexibility in providing additional facilities which are needed to ensure churches serve communities in the 21st century.
“Heritage, however, is only one way of looking at churches. Churches deal so much in what is essential in our local communities, education, tourism and social regeneration, all adding much to the local economy. In looking to the long term, it is necessary to consolidate the help and expertise already being offered by heritage bodies and build up relationships with other funders based on renewed appreciation of the potential of churches, not only for worship and community memory, but also for regeneration in the wider sense.”
Notes to Editors
The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, is Chairman of the Church Heritage Forum.
A 2005 survey by ORB showed that 86 per cent of the population had visited a church building or place of worship in the previous twelve months, for reasons ranging from participating in worship to attending concerts or simply wanting a quiet space. This confirmed the levels recorded in 2003.
The 2005 survey showed that 38% of the population think that central taxation, local taxation, the National Lottery or English Heritage are primarily responsible for funding maintenance of church buildings. Asked who should be primarily responsible, the respondents naming those four sources rose to 46%. (ORB 2005)
Forty-five per cent of the country’s Grade I listed buildings are maintained by the Church of England. These churches and cathedrals are largely supported by the efforts and financial support of local communities. Often, they are the focus of community life and service.
In total, some 12,200 of the Church of England's 16,200 buildings are listed by the government as being of special architectural or historic interest.
Three cathedrals are World Heritage Sites: Durham Castle and Cathedral; Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine's Abbey & St Martin's Church, and Westminster Abbey and St Margaret’s Church.