Major Parish Churches

Major Parish Churches represent some of the most special, significant and well-loved places of worship in England.

Selby abbey Holly Hayes

Background to Major Churches

As part of the Church Buildings Council’s work to support keeping churches open and sustainable, the Council has been looking to better define the different roles of church buildings. Major Parish Churches comprise over 300 of the largest and most significant churches in England.

A major parish church has all or most of the following characteristics:

  • Physically very big (over 1000m2 footprint)
  • Grade I, II* or (exceptionally) II listed
  • Exceptional significance and/or issues necessitating a conservation management plan
  • Have a role or roles beyond those of a typical parish church, and make a considerable civic, cultural and economic contribution to their communities

They are recognised as historically significant parish church buildings with a different scale of opportunities and challenges faced compared to the vast majority of other Church of England church buildings. Major Churches are likely to require a higher level of attention from the diocese and the Council due to their special functions, significance and potential. You can find the list of designated churches online on the Church Heritage Record.

Read the 2016 research report on Major Churches conducted in partnership with Historic England and Purcell here.

Major Churches Updates

Welcome to the new Major Churches webpage! We are currently working to improve our online resources and this page will be updated, so please do check back to see what’s new.

The Greater Churches Network recently held its Biannual General Meeting and unanimously voted to re-form as the Major Churches Network. You can read their Press Release here.

More information on how Major Churches can join the Network will be coming soon.

If you’d like to share some news from your Major Church please contact us.

Conservation Management Plans

Major Churches are of such size and significance that having a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) for the building is strongly recommended. A CMP allows everyone to agree on the values and significance of the church and should be used to inform all decisions that affect the building. It can help the success of grant applications and support faculty applications, planning permission, listed building consent and scheduled monument consent.

We will be adding to this page with updated guidance soon, but in the meantime our existing resources are linked below.

You can find two good example Conservation Management Plans for Major Churches below


Disaster Management Plans

Preparing as best you can for an emergency situation is especially important for Major Churches and Cathedrals whose buildings, and the objects they contain, are some of the nation’s most historic and treasured heritage assets.

Visit our page on producing a Disaster Management Plan and see the case studies from other Major Churches below

Liturgical Plans

Liturgical Plans are valuable for Major Churches as many building proposals have a liturgical dimension, and an understanding of the liturgical life of the church is therefore key. Setting out and agreeing how the building is used for worship is fundamental to thinking about future changes, especially for such complex and important churches as these.

Taken alongside a Conservation Management Plan, a Liturgical Plan can provide a basis for decisions about what you might want to do to the building in future based on how it is used for worship. It also helps with obtaining faculty permissions and successful grant applications.

We are currently working with three Major Parish Churches to produce Liturgical Plan guidance for Major Churches. In the meantime, guidance for Cathedrals can still be helpful and is available here.

Major Churches Network

The Major Churches Network is an independently run network that all Major Churches are eligible to join. Formerly the Greater Churches, the new Network arranges conferences, regional meetings and other resources specifically aimed at supporting Major Churches. To join, please complete the application form found here.

Apply to Become a Major Church

Applications to become a Major Church are considered by the Church Buildings Council. To apply, please use the form found here.

Please note that the Council will not consider applications that have not first been approved by your DAC, so be sure to speak to your DAC Secretary first.

Contact Us

Please contact the Cathedral and Church Buildings division if you have any questions.