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Suffolk selected in a pilot scheme to fund ‘stitch-in-time’ repairs for churches and places of worship

Tuesday 4th September 2018

Suffolk selected in a pilot scheme to fund ‘stitch-in-time’ repairs for churches and places of worship

A Government-funded pilot programme to repair and enhance England’s listed places of worship has been launched by Michael Ellis, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism.

The £1.8 million scheme, to be managed by Historic England, will see expert advisers working with all faiths and denominations. They will help local volunteers manage and maintain eligible buildings and explore options for their wider use to serve communities and strengthen local relationships.

The 18-month-long pilot scheme will run in Suffolk and Greater Manchester - respectively one region predominantly rural and the other more urban, to test the implementation of recommendations made in last year’s Taylor Review: Sustainability of English Churches and Cathedrals.  The review concluded that church buildings play a “vital role” in providing public services and a sense of identity to communities across the country, and that they should be opened up to help ensure a more sustainable future for the sites.

The pilot programme launched today recognises that any faith group caring for a listed building faces special challenges and that many congregations are keen to share good ideas, develop skills and increase the number of people who can help to keep these architectural gems fit to serve their communities.

Speaking before the event, Heritage Minister Michael Ellis said: “Historic faith buildings are a key part of our rich heritage and it is important they are protected.  Every year thousands of volunteers dedicate a huge amount of time to their upkeep, but many need high levels of maintenance and repair. Through these pilots in Manchester and Suffolk, we will unlock the wider community potential of listed places of worship and provide practical guidance to help preserve these much-loved buildings.”

In addition to the fund, a fabric support adviser and a community support adviser (also funded by Historic England) have been appointed to assist communities of all faiths and denominations in Suffolk who look after listed places of worship.

The fabric adviser, Tom Kȕpper, will be signposting faith communities towards a more strategic approach for maintaining their building.  While the community support adviser, Laura Emmins, will help faith communities engage with the wider, non-worshipping community in order for non-worship activities to be held within the building.

By increasing the number of routine repairs and undertaking regular maintenance of churches these buildings will be better preserved for the future.  Making sure churches are open to the public with active and engaging community activities is a key priority of the programme. 

James Halsall says “This is an exciting development for Suffolk, and the diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich is delighted Suffolk has been chosen as a pilot area.  Our church buildings are often at the heart of the community.  The appointment of Tom and Laura will assist our volunteers in maintaining these historic assets as well as increasing community engagement, so more people can benefit from these spectacular buildings”