Churches - the world's most important historic buildings
Published: Tuesday, April 11, 2017
In England, maintaining the 'listing' of historic church buildings is the responsibility of Historic England.
Historic England is the Government body which is in charge of the 'list' of historic and architecturally significant buildings, the most important parts of English heritage, so they can be protected by law.
Listing emerged as a legal system of protecting England’s most precious buildings during the Second World War. The first lists were compiled as an emergency measure to identify what should be protected in post-war rebuilding. The next generation of more systematic lists on a geographical (parish) basis were heroic in their scale, but inevitably quite brief in their descriptions and often done from the road, sometimes from bicycles, without internal inspection.
In England, the great majority of listed buildings (92%) are Grade II, which means they are special. There are two higher levels of listing: Grade II*, which means ‘particularly important buildings of more than special interest’ (5.8%), and Grade I, which covers buildings of ‘exceptional interest’, normally what we consider ‘textbook’ examples (2.5%).
The list of protected buildings or sites is known as The Heritage List (officially the National Heritage List for England or NHLE) it is the official and up to date record of all nationally protected historic buildings or sites in England.
The largest number of listed church buildings
As the Christian denomination with the largest number of church buildings, its no surprise that the Church of England has the largest number of listed church buildings, a staggering 12,220. That's a lot of buildings to be proud of.
Quite a way behind in terms of numbers comes the Roman Catholic church with 629, closely followed by the Methodist church with 512.
Then with 308, it's the United Reformed Church, and with 267 the Baptist Union.
Other religions also have listed buildings.
- Jewish 27
- Muslim 14
- Sikh 7
- Buddhist 5
Historic England's listing also includes 813 buildings designated as Christian (other). Finally, there are the intriguing categories of Unknown ( 4) and Non-Christian but unidentified (4).
To save you having to do the maths, the total of listed religious places of worship in England stands at 14,810.
You can find out more by viewing the National Heritage List for England, the official up-to-date database of all nationally designated heritage assets.
Nominate a church building for listing
Any member of the public as well as groups and societies may nominate a building for listing. Buildings of architectural and historical importance in England are listed by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, who has a statutory duty to consult Historic England.
Any building over 10 years old may be listed, however buildings less than 30 years old (from the start date of construction) are not normally listed unless they are under threat of demolition or alteration and are found “outstanding” (Grade I or II*). While the majority of surviving buildings from before 1800 are listed, the criteria for listing later buildings become stricter as the date of the building becomes more recent.
If you know of a religious building that should be listed, nominations may be made via the Designation online application.
Help enrich the list
Many places on the list are well-known and even world-famous. But in some cases there is much that remains unknown. So you can help keep the list rich, relevant and up-to-date by adding your own photos - new or old, information about, historical events and social history and information about the architecture or archaeology on Historic England's Enrich the List page.
There are similar listing schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.