Helping churches and chapels in Northern Ireland
The National Churches Trust has been supporting churches and chapels in Northern Ireland for many years. Since 2007, we have helped many places of worship in Northern Ireland with funding for urgent repairs. You can see the places of worship we have helped on our interactive map.
Promoting maintenance - Northern Ireland Maintenance Project
From 2017 onwards we have been working in partnership with the Ulster Historic Churches Trust and the Pilgrim Trust on a Maintenance Pilot. The pilot has explored the use of drones for high level inspections. It also helps with planning and delivery of works and each building taking part is supported by small maintenance grants. So far the pilot has assisted 24 churches. Now in its third year, thanks to funding from the Pilgrim Trust, the Ulster Historic Churches Trust is working with the following churches:
- West Church, 3rd Ballymena Presbyterian Church, Ballymena;
- Craigs Parish Church;
- St James, Dunaghy;
- Killagan Parish Church;
- The Mall Presbyterian Church, Armagh;
- St Malachy's Church, Armagh;
- Conlig Presbyterian Church;
- St Patrick's, Newtownards
Each of the churches has had a drone survey carried out McCollum Conservation working with a professional drone operator. The surveys concentrated on high level difficult to reach elements including roofs, parapets, finials, rainwater goods, towers and spires. The subsequent reports provided photographic evidence of the defects uncovered together with a detailed appraisal of the structure and clearly identified future maintenance works and repairs. The project was highlighted and promoted by the Department for Communities NI (Historic Environment Division) as part of Maintenance Month.
Having received the reports the churches obtained quotes for the work that had been identified by the drones. This enabled the following grants to be awarded in April 2020:
- 3rd Ballymena Presbyterian Church £3,700
- The Mall Presbyterian Church £2,725
- Conlig Presbyterian Church £2,975
- St Malachy's Church, Armagh £2,075
- St Patrick's Church, Newtonards £2,025
Father Martin from St Patrick's Church in Newtonards summed up the impact of the programme:
"I am thrilled and want to say a big thank you to the National Churches Trust for all the encouragement and advice that you have given to us as a parish, who treasure our Parish Church here in Newtownards. The drone survey was just so informative and revealing, it was great to be part of the project and cannot thank you enough for that."
The Department for Communities (Historic Environment Division) has issued a survey to gain a greater understanding of the impact of the current situation on the heritage sector in Northern Ireland. It will take about 10 minutes to complete, and provide information to policy makers to consider interventions to address the impacts. The survey can be accessed at here.
We have compiled a range of advice and information about how to look after your church during the Coronavirus Pandememic. Further details can be found here
Building capacity for places of worship in Northern Ireland
Department for Communities (Historic Environment Division)
In March 2018, as a short term project funded by the Department for Communities, the National Churches Trust worked with faith and heritage organisations and professionals to start to set up a framework for a future strategic action plan to build resilience for places of worship in Northern Ireland. As part of this project we have estavlished the Northern Ireland Places of Worship Forum and run a series of workshops. In 2020 we are delighted to be working with the Department for Communities again on the next phase.
Northern Ireland Places of Worship Forum
The Northern Ireland Places of Worship Forum was established in 2018 to allow faith and heritage organisations to share information about funding and caring for historic church buildings. Organisations that have contributed include the Ulster Historic Churches Trust, the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, the Diocese of Down and Connor, the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Architectural Heritage Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Forum has an approved Terms of Reference and has agreed on the following 4 main objectives:
- Share information of mutual interest;
- Support and facilitate resources and activities that build capacity in the faith sector;
- Identify shared issues and potential solutions that can be worked on collectively;
- Create a joint identity for its membership and a combined and strengthened voice;
Feedback is sought from the Forum Attendees via formal Feedback sheets. 100% of respondees from the October 2020 Forum felt the session was good or excellent.
“Forum an Excellent idea”
“Great to network with others and to hear about what is happening across Northern Ireland”
“Interesting to meet other people who are in the same boat as ourselves”
“The venue and the speakers were excellent”
“Information was accessible and focused”
Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 virus the Places of Worship Forum that was due to take place at Bloomfield Presbyterian Church in March 2020 had to be cancelled. The Forum will be re-arranged as soon as possible.
Capacity Building Workshops
"Good overview of funding and processes involved"
"I enjoyed the maintenance talk which challenged me to carry out more visual inspections"
"Sincerest thanks for the experience and I look forward to acting on what I have heard today and building upon the advice"
Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 virus the Workshops that was due to take place at Bloomfield Presbyterian Church in March 2020 had to be cancelled. These will be re-arranged as soon as possible - check back here for further details
The National Churches Trust is to lead ‘Treasure Ireland’ new project to support historic places of worship in Northern Ireland.
The project, which will run over three years, includes a new grants fund which will offer between £500 - £10,000 for repairs and maintenance to help keep churches in good condition and so prevent expensive repairs. ‘Treasure Ireland' will also offer training and mentoring to help people who look after places of worship. This will include developing skills on writing funding bids, maintenance and interpretation and tourism.
‘Treasure Ireland’ is funded jointly by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Pilgrim Trust, the Department of Communities and the National Churches Trust. It is hoped that the project will be launched in May 2020.
As part of the 2018 project we conducted research into the challenges faced by places of worship in Northern Ireland. An online survey for volunteers and staff at individual places of worship across Christian traditions identified key common concerns and needs.
Two focus group sessions were held at May Street Presbyterian Church, which has successfully applied for public and National Churches Trust funding. Each was attended by ten church representatives from a range of traditions and urban and rural areas of Northern Ireland. The focus groups provided an opportunity for in-depth research, and were also training opportunities that combined learning from professional conservation accredited professionals, and learning from peers who had been in similar situations.
Chris McCollum of award winning Chris McCollum Chartered Building Surveyors Ltd provided expert advice and guidance on managing successful capital building projects and maintaining historic buildings.
Arthur Acheson of the May Street Presbyterian Church explained how they achieved their recent successful roof and rainwater goods project which had threatened closure for their Grade A listed Belfast city centre church. Read a case study.