Listed churches encouraged to do small repairs to protect their buildings

St Mary Rickinghall, Diss, Suffolk. A Minor Repair grant of £7,500 enabled the replacement of missing roof tiles and leaking asbestos cement gutters, the repointing of small cracks, and the renewal of leaking rainwater gullies.(Photo: Historic England)

Hundreds of at-risk places of worship have been helped by a £1.8m support scheme run by Historic England. 

The Taylor Review Pilot, funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, offered free support and advice for listed places of worship from different faith traditions, but with a particular focus on Suffolk and Greater Manchester.

The scheme was launched to test one of the conclusions of the Taylor Review, that minor repairs carried out regularly can save treasured historic churches from becoming 'at risk' and needing possibly unaffordable major works in the future.

The pilot ran for two years, coming to an end in March this year, during which time it helped 396 listed places of worship, 136 of which received financial support. 

The 2017 Taylor Review was led by Bernard Taylor and examined the sustainability of English churches and cathedrals.

Its recommendations included setting up Fabric Support Officers and Community Development Advisers to advise listed places of worship on building maintenance, applying for grants, and increasing engagement beyond their congregations. 

The final report also recommended the creation of a Minor Repairs Fund to address the physical deterioration of historic buildings. The fund encouraged a 'stitch in time' approach that prioritised making regular minor repairs to prevent the need for costly major works in the future. 

Participating places of worship were helped in planning or carrying out urgent repairs or conservation work, and introducing measures to increase visitor numbers and community engagement. 

Historic England found that the pilot enabled listed places of worship to bring forward necessary maintenance and minor repair work by 2-5 years on average.

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, said: "This pilot has proved how a 'stitch in time' approach really works and it has successfully helped 396 listed places of worship over the past two years.

"Addressing small repairs has increased understanding that doing even the smallest job makes a big difference to keeping these extraordinary places running.

"It's been wonderful to see local communities engaged and supporters dedicated to the care of historic places of worship." 

Heritage Minister Nigel Huddleston said: "Places of worship are vital to our local communities. I am pleased that this pilot scheme, funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has been such a success in helping so many buildings.

"By protecting these places of worship, we are bringing together communities, engaging visitors, and preserving our heritage for future generations to enjoy."