Making Changes to Places of Worship

Historic places of worship have been community spaces for generations and we believe they should continue to be so. Inevitably your historic place of worship will have been rearranged over its lifetime, with each generation leaving its mark. We realise that it will need to provide modern, welcoming, spaces and facilities for the 21st century too.


Historic England’s role is to support sustainable changes whilst advising how the special interest of the building is conserved so nothing of historic value is irretrievably lost.

Before you start any work you will need to check what statutory obligations you will need to meet. We provide further guidance on getting permission to make changes. This includes information on the different denominational systems, listed building consent and planning permission.

What do you want to do?

The pages in this section cover both the basic principles of making changes to places of worship, including to the interior and exterior. You can also find information on assessing the significance of your place of worship.

The other pages provide advice by topic, depending on the type of change you'd like to make (from altering doors or windows, to generating electricity).

Further information is available on carrying out works in cemeteries and burial grounds.

How does Historic England approach changes in historic places of worship?

We advise that the best new work:

  • Achieves high standards of design, craftsmanship and materials
  • Is based on an understanding of the cultural and heritage significance of the building
  • Minimises harm to the special historic, archaeological, architectural and artistic interest of the building, its contents and setting
  • Offers new public benefits, which outweigh any harm to its significance, such as securing the long-term use of the building through a new income stream or making it possible for more people to enjoy it

Our permissions page explains when Historic England gets involved in projects and how to contact your local Historic England team for advice on your particular project.