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Places of Worship at Risk

There are approximately 14,790 listed places of worship in England.[1] These buildings provide spaces for worship as well as social and community events where people gather for a wide range of practical and spiritual reasons.

There's a sense in which these public buildings have 'seen it all before' over many generations.

They continue to accommodate celebration and grief, shared and private experiences, art, music, sculpture and toddler groups, political hustings, and self-help and addiction support sessions. These are significant spaces in which human experience has been, and continues to be, welcome.

Holy Cross Church Chatton, with scaffold
Holy Cross Church in Chatton, Northumberland was built between 1763 and 1770. Listed at Grade II, it is an early example of Gothic Revival architecture. The church was identified as ‘at risk’ in 2013 because of a leaking roof. Repairs undertaken with Heritage Lottery funding will enable it to be removed from the Heritage at Risk Register in 2015.

The current situation

We work closely with the Baptist Union, Church of England, Methodist Church, Roman Catholic Church and United Reformed Church to monitor the condition of listed places of worship.

In total, 6.3% (930) of our listed places of worship are on our Heritage at Risk Register. This includes buildings which are generally in fair or good condition, but have a significant problem with one major element, like the tower.

Others are vulnerable to becoming at risk. The main threats are failing:

  • Roofs
  • Gutters
  • Downpipes and
  • High level stonework

Carrying out simple, regular, maintenance is essential to prevent these buildings declining into a poor or very bad condition.

The challenge ahead

Historic England recognises that the care of historic places of worship relies heavily on worshipping congregations.

Since 2008, we have funded the creation of 33 Support Officer posts throughout England. Support Officers help congregations look after their buildings, giving them access to a wide range of skills and advice.

We provide specialised technical advice to the Heritage Lottery Fund in the management of their Grants for Places of Worship Scheme. This provides funds for urgent structural repairs, offering grants from between £10,000 and £250,000.

The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings' Maintenance Co-operatives project is an important initiative supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Maintenance Co-operatives allow volunteers caring for places of worship to share ideas, resources and good practice, as well as benefiting from peer-to-peer support.

We are also monitoring heritage crime to help focus support where it is needed most. We're working in partnership with local authorities, police forces, the Crown Prosecution Service, and faith groups, to reduce levels of damage to much loved sites.

Understanding significance

Historic England supports congregations and faith groups using historic buildings, whether they were built as places of worship or have been converted for that purpose.

We offer advice on adaptating places and installing new facilities so they can be used for a wide range of faith and community purposes. A useful on-line tool to help congregations prepare Statements of Significance has now been launched.

We also provide technical guidance. This ranges from conservation of historic fabric to making buildings more resilient to climate change, increasing energy efficiency and other practical matters.

We're currently working with universities, faith groups and other partners to learn more about buildings being used by the Society of Friends and other Nonconformist congregations, Muslim communities, Buddhists, Roman Catholic and Church of England parish churches.


1. The National Heritage List for England is the official record of listed historic sites in England but assets, including places of worship, are added to it and removed almost daily. This can be because of change of use (from worship to secular functions), addition of new listings or removal due to delisting.


Heritage at Risk Team