WHAT IS THE CHURCHES CONSERVATION TRUST?
Parish churches are such a familiar and beautiful part of our English scene that they seem to be as permanent as the landscape itself. Sadly this is not so. For a number of reasons, such as the mobility of the population in town and country and the decline in church attendance, many of them cannot now be maintained for their original purpose: the Church of England no longer has a need for them and they are redundant as regular places of worship. There is a formal procedure for declaring a church redundant and also for giving careful consideration to what is to happen to it thereafter. Some redundant churches are found other uses - as places of worship for other denominations, as concert halls, cultural centres, offices or even as houses - and some are demolished; but there are others which are so important to the cultural heritage of the nation that their preservation must be secured. It was to look after churches of this kind that The Churches Conservation Trust was established. If The Trust did not exist the majority of these churches would probably disappear or - at best - survive merely as ruins, to the great sorrow of everyone who cares about the national heritage. This web-page explains in detail what The Trust is, how it operates and what its responsibilities are.
What is a redundant church?
A redundant church is a consecrated church belonging to the Church of England which has been formally declared redundant under the procedure of the Pastoral Measures (1968 or 1983) because it is no longer required for regular worship. A Measure is the name given to ecclesiastical legislation which has been passed by the General Synod of the Church of England, ratified by both Houses of Parliament and has received the Royal Assent. It has the force of law and the same legal status as an Act of Parliament.
Who is consulted before a church is declared redundant?
The initiative for declaring a church formally redundant usually comes from the parish but may come from the Diocesan Pastoral Committee, which has the duty of keeping under review the arrangements for pastoral care in the diocese. Before draft proposals for a declaration of redundancy can be prepared by the Diocesan Pastoral Committee for submission to the Bishop, the Committee must obtain information about the historic interest and architectural quality of the building from the Council for the Care of Churches. The Committee must also ask for the views of the interested parties, who include the incumbent, the patron of the benefice, the parochial church council, the archdeacon, the rural dean and the local planning authority. When the views of the interested parties are known, and if after considering them the Diocesan Pastoral Committee decides that the proposals should go ahead, it submits recommendations to the Bishop. If he approves, he forwards them as proposals to the Church Commissioners who then prepare and issue a draft Pastoral Scheme to give effect to them. Copies of the draft Pastoral Scheme are sent to the interested parties and to certain other bodies, eg the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission (English Heritage), and a notice is published in local newspapers giving brief details of what is proposed. It must state where a copy of the full draft scheme may be inspected and that any written representations on that scheme may be sent to the Church Commissioners within 28 days from the date of publication of the notice. If, after considering any representations, the Church Commissioners decide that the scheme should be made, it is signed by the Bishop, sealed by the Church Commissioners and sent for confirmation to the Queen in Council.
What happens after a church is declared redundant?
Regular public worship ceases and the church generally passes into the ownership of the Diocesan Board of Finance. In some cases the Pastoral Scheme will provide for the future of the church. Normally, however, it goes into the so-called waiting period. This period is not more than three years though it can in special circumstances be extended. The Church Commissioners consult the Advisory Board for Redundant Churches for information and advice on the historic and archaeological interest and architectural quality of any redundant church. The Diocesan Redundant Churches Uses Committee meanwhile explores the possibility of finding a suitable alternative use for the building. If a use is found and approved by the Church Commissioners, they then prepare what is known as a Redundancy Scheme to authorise the disposal of the property for that purpose. The procedure for such a Scheme is simpler than that for a Pastoral Scheme, but it includes the publication of the Scheme in draft and the giving of an opportunity for anyone to make written representations to the Commissioners about the draft. If no suitable use can be found, the Commissioners have to decide which of the other courses legally open to them should be followed. Normally the choice lies between preservation of the building by The Churches Conservation Trust or demolition.
During the waiting period the Diocesan Board of Finance is responsible for the care, maintenance and insurance of the building and for the safe keeping of its contents; and is under obligation to carry out the minimum repairs necessary to prevent it deteriorating to such an extent that it can only be demolished. Since 1983 a more direct procedure has been available for vesting churches of exceptional quality in The Trust where no alternative outcome is likely. This procedure can take less than a year and so reduces costs resulting from deterioration. Since the Pastoral Measure came into operation on 1 April 1969, 1,559 churches or parts of churches have been declared redundant; of these, together with 47 churches closed under previous legislation, the future of 1,505 churches had been secured.
Full details are included each year in the Church Commissioners' Annual Report.
The Churches Conservation Trust
What is The Churches Conservation Trust?
It is the body set up in 1969 under Part III of the Pastoral Measure 1968, which has as its object the preservation, in the interests of the nation and the Church of England, of redundant churches or redundant parts of churches of historic and archaeological interest or architectural quality vested in it. Until 1 April 1994 it was known as the Redundant Churches Fund.
What is meant by 'vesting' a redundant church in The Trust?
Vesting is the legal transfer of property to The Trust for care and preservation. The property transferred may be a church, or part of a church, with its contents and with or without the adjacent land, for example a churchyard belonging to it. Vesting may be effected by a pastoral scheme under section 47(2) of the Pastoral Measure 1983 or by a redundancy scheme under section 51 (b) of the Measure.
Where does the money come from?
The Trust's main sources of finance are the Church Commissioners and the State. The authority for the payments made by the Commissioners is contained in the Pastoral Measure 1983, and the State's contribution is paid through the Department for Culture, Media and Sport under the terms of the Redundant Churches and Other Religious Buildings Act 1969. The maximum amount of the grants to be made available has been agreed on a five-yearly basis and since 1994 on a three-yearly basis, and is confirmed by Statutory Orders, the Church's contribution being made up of a grant from the Church Commissioners' general fund and a share of the proceeds of the sales of redundant churches and sites. The total sum available to The Trust for the three years from 1 April 1997 is £10.6m. The State is to bear 70% of the cost, the Church 30%. The Trust is a registered charity and is expected to raise part of its income from the gifts, service collections and bequests of the public. Where appropriate, grants are sought from local authorities and grant-making bodies, including the Heritage Lottery Fund, and The Trust's supporters hold fund-raising events in their localities for specific projects. The Trust is very grateful for and increasingly dependent on these other sources of income. However, because of their special status as redundant churches, The Trust's churches are not eligible for the normal grants available to churches in full use from English Heritage, or from the Historic Churches Preservation Trust, or from grants for specific purposes administered by the Council for the Care of Churches.
Who appoints the Trustees?
The Trust consists of a Chairman and not less than four not more than six trustees. All are appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, submitted through the Prime Minister. The method of appointment reflects the joint interests of Church and State in the work of The Trust.
How many churches are vested in The Trust?
312 redundant churches (or parts of churches) were in the care of The Trust on 28 February 1998. Click to view the full listing.
What is the The Trust's policy in regard to the care and preservation of these churches?
When a redundant church is vested The Trust becomes its owner, solely responsible for its care and maintenance - for its fabric and contents and also for the uses to which the church is put (see next paragraph). The Trust appoints an architect to report on a newly vested church with recommendations as to the repairs that are necessary and the order of priority in which they should be carried out. The Trust's aim is to make the building structurally sound, wind and weather proof, clean and tidy; to protect it from vandalism; and, funds permitting, to conserve its fittings, wall paintings, monuments and furnishings in such a way that their original significance in the church can be appreciated. The work of repair and conservation is carried out under the supervision of the appointed architect, and specialist advisers and craftsmen are called in where necessary to deal with wall paintings, monuments, bells, clocks and other items calling for special expertise. The Trust aims to provide a guide, however brief, to each of the churches in its care. A list of guides and postcards may be obtained by writing to the London office (enclosing s.a. c.). Annual Reports, costing £3 plus 50p postage, can also be obtained from there.
To what uses can the churches vested in The Trust be put?
The Trust is authorised under section 44(5b) of the Pastoral Measure 1983 to permit the occasional use of churches in its care or to grant a licence permitting their temporary use for the purposes considered by it to be suitable, either without charge or on payment of a fee. The reason for this limitation in use lies in the object for which The Trust was created, namely to preserve with public and church money redundant churches of historic and archaeological interest or architectural quality vested in The Trust by schemes under the Pastoral Measures in the interests of the nation and the Church of England. The aim is not to restore churches which will then rival churches in use, nor to be the means of providing permanent facilities for secular purposes. The churches vested in The Trust remain consecrated: they are still churches. They still have a part to play in the life of the community. The Trust intends them to be as accessible as possible. Occasional services, if authorised by the Bishop and agreed with the incumbent, concerts, art and history exhibitions and flower festivals are therefore permitted and encouraged. Since 1994 The Trust has the power to grant leases for the use of its churches.
Who looks after The Trust's churches locally?
It employs five regionally based Field Officers who visit and report on each church at regular intervals. The Trust also tries to find a caretaker or key-holder for each church, and encourages people in the locality to take an interest in the building and keep it clean and welcoming to visitors.
The Churches Conservation Trust
89 Fleet Street
LONDON EC4Y 1DH
020 7936 2285
(Registered Charity No. 258612)
Advisory Board for Redundant Churches
Little College Street
LONDON SW1 P 3SH
020 7222 9603
LONDON SW1P 3JZ
0202 7222 7010
Council for the Care of Churches
Little College Street
LONDON SW1P 3SH
020 7222 3793
23 Savile Row
LONDON W1X 2HE
020 7734 6010
Addresses of the Diocesan Boards of Finance, Pastoral Committees and Redundant Churches Uses Committees may be obtained from the Church of England Year Book available from any British reference library.