Cherish: a new project to help at risk churches


The National Churches Trust has been awarded a £1.9m grant to boost skills, resources and funding for historic places of worship.

Places of worship in Scotland, Wales and Northwest of England (Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Cumbria) will benefit from a £1.9m National Lottery Heritage Fund grant, awarded to the National Churches Trust to keep historic churches and chapels thriving today, and tomorrow.

The three-year programme will provide cherished churches and chapels with practical solutions to improve how their buildings are cared for and secured for the future. Financial support will be provided together with initiatives to strengthen heritage management skills and training for people who look after places of worship, investing overall in local areas’ heritage, capability and resources.

Practical solutions

The funding will target the most critical areas improving economic and community resources, providing important benefits to places of worship and communities. These include:

  • Grants: dedicated to maintenance, project development and small repairs, offering financial support of between £500 and £10,000. Grants will be available from May 2023 through the National Churches Trust’s online grants portal.
  • Maintenance: expert information and support to proactively deal with a range of problems to avoid the need for expensive repairs.
  • Crisis support: the National Churches Trust will work in partnership with a variety of organisations and help identify suitable support for communities facing the potential loss of historic buildings.
  • Resourcing: three full-time local support officers based in Wales, Scotland and North West England to build relationships with places of worship and respond to local issues.
  • Digital Toolkit of buildings’ care, including income generation resources and materials to be used throughout the UK, accessible to places of worship and for all faiths.
  • Training: building local capacity to look after buildings in need, ownership and care of historic places of worship - covering project management, writing funding bids, maintenance skills and tourism.
  • Visitors: improving access to and awareness of the value of cherished churches and chapels, creating themed visitor trails and engaging with partners across UK heritage.
Church maintenance
Treasure Ireland

The £1.9m grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund builds on ‘Treasure Ireland’, a pilot project in Northern Ireland, developed and managed by the National Churches Trust.

The Treasure Ireland project helped over 300 places of worship with grants, advice, training and resources. One of the churches to take advantage of the project was St Macartan’s - The Forth Chapel - in Augher, County Tyrone which won the UK wide title of Church of the Year 2022.

Eilish McGuinness, Chief Executive of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said:

“As the UK’s largest funder of heritage, we want to collaborate with organisations who share our vision and understand heritage and the people they support.

“Our long-term partnership with the National Churches Trust builds on our wide ranging experience of grant-making to conserve heritage and bring new life and purpose to cherished churches and chapel buildings.

“We are delighted to be able to award the National Churches Trust £1.9m to provide much needed support to places of worship in Scotland, Wales and the North West of England.

“As we look to launch our new ten-year strategy this week, we’ve listened to what the sector and the public want. This grant will direct funding to where it’s most needed, protecting and caring for some of our most precious and fragile heritage, at the heart of communities.

“Thanks to National Lottery players, we are investing in thousands of organisations small and large to protect, conserve and celebrate the past for current and future generations”.

Claire Walker, Chief Executive of the National Churches Trust, said:

“Churches and chapels are some of our most historic and beautiful buildings. At the centre of local communities, they also provide a home for countless community support such as playgroups, drop-in-centres and warm spaces, as well as serving their core purpose as places of worship.”

“A huge thank-you to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for investing £1.9 million Cherish, a three-year project which will see the National Churches Trust supporting places of worship in Scotland, Wales and the North West of England.”

“As well as providing much needed immediate help and practical support, this partnership will allow us to develop new ways of supporting churches and chapels so that they can remain open and available, in use and valued by all."

Mary McGee, representative of 2022 Church of the Year Award winner St Macartan’s, said:

“The National Churches Trust has been invaluable to us in our journey to both discover and appreciate our heritage and also in terms of financial support. The work of the project officer in Northern Ireland from our first meeting with her has been so beneficial to our work on St Macartan’s church."

"Through her site visits, online webinars and constant advice it has given us the confidence to take our project forward and reawakened in the community a renewed pride and respect for the work of past generations who left us with this lasting legacy.”

"As ‘Treasure Ireland’ has done in Northern Ireland, this new three-year project will allow the National Churches Trust to work in partnership with local organisations to identify the most pressing needs of congregations and local communities and then work together to develop and offer a range of solutions that helps to stop important heritage being lost."

Applying for a grant

Cherish grants fund offers between £500 and £10,000 for small repairs and maintenance to help keep churches in good condition and prevent expensive repairs. These grants are now live. 

We are excited to announce that Cherish is now live

Our three dedicated support officers based in Scotland, North West England and Wales/Cymru, are able to provide a range of training, resources and mentoring to help you look after your place of worship.

Find out more about the support on offer and contact our new officers here.