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Churches to benefit from new heritage funding

22 October 2021

Chester Cathedral

A GRANT of £2 million to the National Churches Trust (NCT) will enable urgent repairs to be made to 15 historic churches and Quaker meeting houses. The funding from the Heritage Stimulus Fund — part of the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund — means that eight of these buildings can now be removed from the Heritage at Risk Register.

Those eight are St Mary’s, Gamlingay (Ely); St Martin’s, Cheselbourne (Salisbury); Holy Trinity, Norton Juxta Twycross (Leicester); St Michael and All Angels, Hughenden (Oxford); St John’s, Workington (Carlisle); St Thomas’s Minster, Newport, Isle of Wight (Portsmouth); St Stephen’s, Launceston (Truro); and St Lawrence’s, Bigbury (Exeter).

All these buildings need urgent repairs to stonework and roofs. Major repairs are also enabled at St Chad’s, Bensham (Durham); St James’s, Skillington (Lincoln); All Saints’, Northampton (Peterborough); and St Anietus’s, St Neot (Truro). Two historic Friends’ meeting houses — Kendal, in Cumbria, and Marazion, in Cornwall — have received funding, together with Saltaire United Reformed Church, in Yorkshire.

NCTSt Michael and All Angels, Hughenden

The vice-president of the NCT, Huw Edwards, described churches, chapels, and meeting houses as “the beating heart of local communities”. The investment was described as “incredibly good news — a vote of confidence in the future of historic church buildings and a recognition of their importance to society” by its CEO, Claire Walker.

“Over the last few months, we have worked closely with experts at Historic England to identify 15 church buildings most at risk that need urgent help,” she said on Friday. “We will now help to ensure these repair projects can be carried out speedily to prevent any further damage to precious heritage.”

The chief executive of Historic England, Duncan Wilson, described heritage as “ a fragile eco-system, with an amazing cast of characters who keep our historic places alive, with specialist skills that take time to learn and experience to perfect. These grants will protect their livelihoods, as they use their expertise to help our heritage survive.”

Twenty-one Church of England churches and cathedrals have also benefited from direct grants totalling £6 million and all to be channelled into work by specialist builders and craftspeople. They include masonry repairs at Canterbury, Chester, Leicester, Lichfield, Liverpool, Newcastle, Southwark, and Wakefield Cathedrals.

The Dean of Lichfield, the Ven. Adrian Dorber, said of the award to Lichfield: “Without this unprecedented investment, the cathedral’s future was at risk. This grant will ensure that vital repairs can be made, that the cathedral continues to be ‘Here for Culture’, and here for the 100,000 visitors who visit each year from around the world, continuing the 1350-year tradition of pilgrimage to this sacred space.”

The Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Revd Vivienne Faull, a joint lead bishop for church buildings, said: “The Culture Recovery Fund has been a lifeline for communities, and today’s Heritage Stimulus Fund announcement is a further boost for projects across the country.

“The appetite and enthusiasm for this scheme shows the scale of need across our churches and cathedrals, and, while these grants will address just a small number of the churches requiring repair and improvement in the coming years, it will help them to continue to serve their wider communities as centres of heritage, community, and faith.”

The Churches Conservation Trust, Friends of Friendless Churches, and the Roman Catholic Church were also successful in bids for funding.

The heritage awards announced on Friday total £35 million.

The Culture Secretary, Nadine Dorries, said: “From local churches to ancient buildings and landscapes, the UK’s unique heritage makes our towns, cities, and villages stronger, more vibrant, and helps bring communities together.

“This latest funding will help protect sites, including Jane Austen’s house and Hampton Court Palace, for future generations, and help them build back better from the pandemic.”

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