Local Treasures

Awards honour the often unsung heroes who look after church buildings


There were prizes galore providing much needed funding for churches at the 2020 Local Treasures awards.

The awards, run by the the National Churches Trust and supported by the Pilgrim Trust, took place on Friday 20 November 2020.  

Nayler Awards for Excellence in Church Maintenance

The team that looks after the much-loved Christ Church in Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire, won the 2020 Nayler Award as the UK’s best maintained church.

The award and a prize of £7,500 was presented to Peter Henry, Church Warden of the church, which opened in May 1821, but with roots going back to 1526.

Judges were impressed  how maintenance was a well-organized team effort at the church involving the architect, Parochial Church Council, churchwardens and volunteers, and the postive impact this had made on keeping the church well maintained. In addition, the team use social media to share news about maintenance with the congregation, making sure that the whole church community is aware of key issues.

Peter Henry, Church Warden at Christ Church said:

“On behalf of the PCC I would like to thank you for this award. It means a lot to us and our congregation. Without them a lot of the work that we have undertaken here would not have actually happened. 2021 sees our five-year quinquennial inspection, where we will put our maintenance plan in place to take us through the next five years. The grant that we received today will help towards carrying out maintenance work highlighted in this.”

There was also good news for two other churches shortlisted for the Nayler Awards.

St Leonard’s church, Southoe, Cambridgshire and the Presbyterian Cardross parish church in Dumbartonshire both won a special Runners Up Award and a cash prize of £2,500.

Friends’ Vote

St Machar cathedral in Aberdeen was awarded the 2020 Friends of the National Churches Trust grant, worth £10,000. The grant will help St Machar, which despite its name is in fact a parish church,  to fund extensive roof repairs to the A-listed building, making the church watertight and preserving its historic fabric.

The work will help to safeguard the church’s oak ceiling, its most important feature, erected in 1520 and is of international importance. It is supported on all four sides by a deep wooden frieze. It is decorated with 48 carved and painted heraldic shields; both carving and painting are of very high quality.

Professor David Hewitt, on behalf of St Machar's cathedral, said:

"Winning a prize as a result of the Friends' Vote is a great surprise.  I greatly admire the work of the National Churches Trust and I appreciate its understanding of the life of churches.  On behalf of the church, the congregation and indeed the people of Aberdeen, thank you very much."

The other three churches that took part in the Friends’ Vote will all receive a special Friends’ Vote grant, in recognition of the exceptional challenges posed by COVID-19 to places of worship.

St Peter’s church, Appleshaw, Hampshire the runner up receives £5,000 and the other two churches,  St Nicholas, Churchstoke, Powys and St James, Leckhampstead, Berkshire  each get £2,500 of funding.

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

“Congratulations to Christ Church in Sowerby Bridge, deserving winners of the 2020 Nayler Awards for church maintenance. The work of the team shows the benefits of having a good maintenance plan in place which helps to prevent costly repair bills in the future. We are delighted that The Pilgrim Trust have partnered with us in these awards, so that we can celebrate the unsung heroes who maintain church buildings.”

Sue Bowers, Director of the Pilgrim Trust said:

“The Pilgrim Trust is delighted to support these awards which highlight best practice in church maintenance and shine a light on the dedication, energy and care that church communities give to ensuring the sustainability of their historic buildings. They show that when it comes to maintenance, the ‘little but often’ approach can reap huge benefits.”

Catherine Townsend, Head of Church Support for the National Churches Trust said:

"We invited churches to whom we had awarded a Cornerstone Grant in 2019 to let us know if they needed any additional funding prior to starting work on their project and four were shortlisted for the vote.”

"We were delighted that this year more Friends than ever took part in the vote.  It is great news for St Machar, a remarkable and historic church, that it really caught the affection of our Friends and won the vote. "