Detail of guttering at St Paul's Church, Fulney, Spalding, Lincolnshire.
Detail of guttering at St Paul's Church, Fulney, Spalding, Lincolnshire. © Historic England, DP110113
Detail of guttering at St Paul's Church, Fulney, Spalding, Lincolnshire. © Historic England, DP110113

Researching Funding and Sustainability of Historic Faith Buildings

Our research aimed at helping to sustain historic places of worship for the future: for example by examining funding and management models, energy efficiency and maintenance.

What is sustainability in this context?

We usually think of ‘sustainability’ in terms of climate change or economic viability, meaning the ability to endure into the future. Many places of worship have already endured for a long time and they are often the places with the longest continuous use of any local building. How they are sustained for the future is a challenge for the communities that use them and care for them.

There are many different ways to consider sustainability. Some key issues are:

  • Reducing the carbon footprint
  • Effective use and management 
  • Most importantly  regular maintenance.

Together these help a community to continue to enjoy using their treasured heritage and hand it on to future generations.  Advice on climate change and reducing the carbon footprint for places of worship already exists.

Understanding the challenges for particular buildings

Understanding the challenges that face particular buildings is crucial to working out what appropriate support local communities need. For example, see the recent report on understanding the particular challenges facing major parish churches.

Sustaining character

Small and large scale change can impact on the character of places of worship and their surroundings. Each place or locality has its own characteristics. Even something as simple as paving in an historic churchyard can impact on its appearance and inform us about its’ history.

We are supporting work to understand the history and survival of paved paths in Devon, along with an event in conjunction with the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.

Research on trench arch drainage

Trench arch drainage (and other forms of non-mains waste drainage) can be useful methods for remote rural churches wishing to install toilets and kitchen facilities where more conventional waste solutions are not available.  However, as with any intervention within historic churchyards, careful consideration is needed as to whether trench arch drainage is appropriate in a particular location.  

Recent research commissioned by Historic England studies trench arch drainage systems in more detail, to see where they have been installed and understand the potential risks posed by their installation and use. 

International report on religious buildings in transition

This report was produced by Henrik Lindblad and Eva Löfgren for the Church of Sweden. It covers comparisons of the administrative, governance, funding, closure and cultural heritage law relating to historic churches. It has been translated into English by Ingrid Greenhow; the translation was funded by Historic England. This was driven by its relevance to all European countries and recent reviews of the Church of England funding in the UK. Now that the document is in English it is being presented at the next Future for Religious Heritage conference in Paris in October 2018 and being used by the European Commission as a base line to develop further European comparative data.