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Security and Places of Worship

Security helps protect the significance of historic places of worship by deterring theft, reducing damage through vandalism and creating a safe environment for people.

If you wish to make changes which may alter or mark your place of worship, or any trees on site, you should first contact the local authority or denominational body to get permission.

Image of a small motion sensor and attached light on the wall of a church as part of a security system.
Security equipment such as alarms, CCTV cameras or lighting should be installed in a manner that minimises physical impacts on historic fabric and visual intrusion. © Ecclesiastical

Locating security equipment

You may wish to install security equipment such as alarms, CCTV cameras or lighting. You will need to consider their location and seek to minimise physical and visual impacts on historic fabric. It's often possible to accommodate them discreetly in existing openings in the walls such as putlog holes (small holes originally intended to support scaffolding), under eaves or bell towers.

Please also see our guidance on Installing New Building Services for more information on the placement of wiring and other services.

It's also important to consider the finished appearance and colour of any cameras or cabling.

Historic glass

If you're thinking of putting measures in place to protect historic glass, methods vary according to the nature of the building, the glass and the level of risk.

Any protective measures will have an effect on the external appearance of the building and also on the glass when viewed from inside. It is important that protective treatment does not hide or cover window divisions or tracery and does allow for adequate ventilation of the original glass.

Black-finished stainless steel wire guards, cut to follow the window or tracery pattern and fixed into joints, are often the most appropriate solution. Polycarbonate (plastic sheet) protection is not usually visually appropriate as it produces a bland and reflective surface. It will also discolour and become opaque over time. We encourage you to consult your Inspecting Architect.

Metal theft

Detailed advice on security and lead theft is available from insurers and in Historic England’s guidance note.

We also have more information available on Tackling Heritage Crime.

Fire safety

Historic places of worship usually have a low fire risk, however arson and accidental fires do occur, especially when a building is unoccupied for long periods.

Please see our guide on fire safety to help you decide whether there are any fire safety improvements you could make.

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