In October 2019 Historic England published the latest edition of its Heritage At Risk Register. This details – as the name suggests – the heritage buildings most at risk of loss through further deterioration in their condition, through neglect or through inappropriate or insensitive development. In general the Register only lists Grade I and Grade II* Listed buildings and monuments which are at risk, but in the case of Places of Worship Grade II buildings are also included.
In order to be designated “At Risk” a building must be inspected by a Historic England architect and found to be suffering from one or more of the following to such an extent that either the building could become unusable or that the building (or a significant part of it) could be lost:
- Roof in bad condition;
- Rainwater goods in bad condition;
- High-level stonework in bad or dangerous condition;
- Structural problems including subsidence and rot.
There are 913 places of worship on the Register; out of 14,800 Listed places of worship that’s about 6.2%. Within Church of England Birmingham, six of our 100 Listed churches (6%) are on the Register.
It is important to note that the inclusion of a church on the Register is emphatically not a criticism of those responsible for looking after it, but it does flag up the fact that the building has reached a point where it is now in need of extra special care and attention and probably a programme of major repairs if it is to have a future.
When a church is included on the Register, English Heritage will write to the Incumbent and to the Diocesan Advisory Committee to inform them. The Register is published annually and can be searched via the Historic England website .
Completion of an approved programme of repairs will lead to the church being removed from the Heritage At Risk Register and just over 100 churches which were included in 2018 were taken off by 2019. A designation of “At Risk” represents an official acknowledgement of the urgency of the required repairs and so can be of assistance when seeking funding for conservation projects.
Whilst nationally around 6.2% of Listed churches are considered “At Risk” something like a further 20% are believed to be in danger of deteriorating to such an extent that they would qualify for inclusion on the Register. The single most important thing you can do to stop your church becoming “At Risk” of developing catastrophic structural problems is to ensure that its rainwater goods are in good working order: intact, properly attached to the building, free of leaks and free of blockages. Attending to any defects or damage to the roof in a timely manner is also critically important to the health of the building.