Know your building
Knowing and understanding your church, chapel or meeting house is key to making it work for you and your community.
Looking after, managing or making changes to a building requires a good understanding of its structure, use and contents so that no unnecessary damage is caused.
This should include knowing what is special about your building, its character, its history, and its significance both architecturally and within your community. You also need to know how the building was constructed, changes that have been made, and both how it was originally designed to work and how it works now – including any defects which need attention.
Places of worship in particular
Churches, chapels and meeting houses are part of the fabric of our built environment. Ask anyone to describe a village, town or city and they will include a graceful spire, solid stone tower or classically styled chapel frontage.
They are also woven throughout our social heritage. They are the places we have always gone to gather with our community, whether for something simple like a church tea, or major life events like a wedding. They often hold records going back centuries, making the past tangible and personal.
Understanding their special place in our lives, whether as church goers or not, will help you to care for and make the most of your own sometimes hidden gem.
National Churches Trust: understanding places of worship
Heritage buildings galore
Churches are the largest group of heritage buildings in the UK.
They are also the only group of buildings still in their original use, living breathing buildings filled with people doing what has been done in them for centuries. They are so much more than museums, or heritage sites.
For these reasons, many are protected. Any work carried out, even regular maintenance, is strictly controlled.
Understanding why this is the case will help you to protect your heritage building for the next generation, sympathetically enhance its use making it relevant and useful to your community, and save you money in the long term by avoiding damaging mistakes.
National Churches Trust: understanding heritage buildings
The wonder of yours
Your building is unique.
It might be built in the same way as others and with the same materials, and there may be many similarities with other buildings of its type and age. Howver, over time it has developed in a way to suit your community. This may have been to embrace changing fashions, to create more space, at the whim of a wealthy local, or to celebrate a particular event or activity. Whatever the cause, the series of small and large changes to your building over its life make it unique.
Learning as much as you can about YOUR church, chapel or meeting house is a fascinating journey, intertwined with stories of local people and links with national and even international events. It will enthuse you to see your building as a true asset to your community, to safeguard it, and give you the knowledge you need to ensure its continuing survival.
National Churches Trust: understanding YOUR church, chapel or meeting house