Danger to historic churches as heritage funding cutbacks bite

Published: Wednesday, August 7, 2019

 

A severe shortage of funding to keep the UK’s historic churches in good repair is reported in our new Annual Review

The National Churches Trust, the UK’s church support charity, has warned of a severe shortage of funding to keep the UK’s historic churches in good repair in its Annual Review for 2018 – 2019, published today, Friday 9 August 2019.

The total number of applications received across the Trust’s grant programmes increased by 24% in 2018 compared to 2017, with 593 applications made. Over the last two years, applications have increased by 56%.

A number of factors influenced this, including less money being available from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, changes to the Trust’s grant programmes and greater awareness of the Trust’s work.

The Annual Review reports on the implementation of the Trust’s new five year strategy ‘Building Resilience’, which has three key themes:

  • Preserving heritage
  • Inspiring support
  • Promoting sustainability

The Annual Review also includes feature articles on the devastating impact of lead theft on churches; the history of church candles; yew trees and churches and a guide to British royal tombs.

Download the Annual Review for 2018 - 2019

If you'd like to receive a printed copy of the Annual Review, please email info@nationalchurchestrust.org

Writing in the Annual Review, Luke March, Chairman of the National Churches Trust said:

 “At a time when so many public buildings are closing and high streets are losing their shops, church buildings are places where people can meet, collaborate and build community, as well as continue to worship.”

 “That is why it is so important to keep them open and in good repair.”

 “The funding of urgent repairs of church buildings remains a source of great concern. Following the decision by the National Lottery Heritage Fund to end its ring-fenced Grants to Places of Worship scheme, and the ending of the Government supported Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund, the Trust has seen a very large increase in demand for its grants.”

 “Although congregations and charitable trusts continue to provide substantial financial support to churches, there continues to be a need for funding from national heritage bodies.”

 “Direct state support continues through the refunding of VAT on repairs, administered by the Listed Places of Worship Grants Scheme. But this is only guaranteed until 2020.”

 “The Trust will continue to make the case for church buildings as the Government embarks on a new spending review in 2019.”

The National Churches Trust in 2018-2019

Grants to help the UK’s churches and chapels.

The National Churches Trust’s grants continue to be extremely important in safeguarding the future of some of the UK’s most important religious heritage. In 2018, the Trust made 228 awards to churches and chapels totalling £1,269,738 (including recommendations on behalf of other organisations).

The total number of applications received across the Trust’s grant programmes increased by 24% in 2018 compared to 2017, with 593 applications made. Over the last two years, applications have increased by 56%.

A number of factors influenced this, including less money being available from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, changes to the Trust’s grant programmes and greater awareness of the Trust’s work.

Enquiries about the Trust’s grants increased by 44% compared to 2017, responded to by email and telephone. Pages about grants on the Trust’s website received almost 30,000 page views.

The Trust increased the level of grant giving to a number of priority areas, including to Northern Ireland where it has been involved in providing a range of practical solutions to churches from various denominations.

Keeping churches and chapels well maintained

Prevention is better than cure. That is why in 2018 the Trust made it easy for churches to tackle essential maintenance tasks sooner rather than later. This safeguards precious heritage and avoids expensive repair bills when something goes wrong.

In 2018 the Trust’s MaintenanceBooker web-based church maintenance service was made available throughout England and Wales, thanks to the support of the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group, the Church in Wales, and the Pilgrim Trust. Over 750 churches registered by the end of 2018

The service allows churchwardens and other people who look after church buildings and qualified maintenance contractors and obtain competitive quotes for work by visiting just one website.

Working closely with procurement experts 2Buy2, in 2018 more than 90 contractors were appointed to the MaintenanceBooker website to deliver gutter clearances and repairs, lightning conductor inspections, tree surveys and surgery, and asbestos management services.

In 2018 the Trust helped 65 churches with maintenance grants totalling £151,303. The most common issue was roof maintenance which made up 30% of the applications received, followed by rainwater goods, and then repair/repointing of external walls. The grants also helped churches repair floors, install access hatches and treat rot in their timbers, as well as carry out investigative work and drainage repairs.

Growing the church tourism market

In 2018, the National Churches Trust continued to make it easy for people to visit churches and to learn about the stories and treasures unique to each building.

A central part of the Trust’s church tourism work is being done through our ExploreChurches website.

In October 2018 the Trust boosted the ExploreChurches website with a new visitor guide, more regional pages, and a new search facility. The website now also has an events calendar and improved map and church pages.

In 2018 two other church tourism projects were developed by the National Churches Trust to help support individual churches.

Thanks to a £48,800 National Lottery grant from the National Heritage Lottery Fund ‘Great Interpretations’, a new project was developed telling the stories of Lincolnshire’s churches.

In partnership with Visit England ExploreChurches Experiences will make it easy to book online for a fascinating range of themed visits in churches and cathedrals. The project is focussed particularly at the US group travel market, but will also appeal to families, students and independent travellers. Experiences will be available to book on the ExploreChurches website later in 2019.

The NCT group whose work is described in the report includes NCT Heritage Services Limited (a wholly–owned subsidiary) and the Luke Trust (a separate charity managed by The NCT).