Church buildings have been an integral part of the English landscape since well before the Norman Conquest. They have stood there, a visible sign of God’s presence in each community, through the centuries hallowed by the prayers uttered within their walls, beautified by the best work of stonemasons, craftspeople and artists, loved by those who have marked life’s most important moments within them. Every hour of every day, they bear witness to the greatness of God and to the faith which underpins almost all of England’s history, culture and law.
A historic church building is an asset to the community it was built to serve. It is so much more than a place of worship: it is a place of collective memory, a treasury of beauty which is for everyone regardless of class or creed, an oasis of tranquility and peace in an increasingly stressful and frenetic world.
The Church of England has over 12,000 Listed church buildings – buildings designated by law and so protected from inappropriate change or development. Half of the Grade I Listed buildings in the country are Church of England parish churches. Within Church of England Birmingham we have exactly 100 Listed churches: Seventeen are listed at Grade I (the highest grade), 31 at Grade II* and 52 at Grade II.
Contrary to popular belief, the UK Government provides no direct funding whatsoever towards the care, conservation and maintenance of any of these hugely important buildings. This makes the UK almost unique amongst European nations and means that the fate of this priceless estate is entirely in the hands of volunteers who care for them.
Caring for a historic church is in itself a great act of Christian mission and service, a noble calling. It is about understanding that the condition of the building influences what people think of God and of the Christian faith and it is about keeping everyone who uses the building safe. It is about co-operating with past and future generations in a work that is for all time, the outworking on earth of what we believe about the Communion of Saints in which all Christian people have a share whether long dead or yet to be born.
To understand England’s historic churches is to enter in to the heart of English history and the profound influence that Christianity has had upon it. No church is free from the effects of upheavals at national and international level or from the changing fashions in liturgy and use through the centuries and every church contains fascinating insights into generations of local people and their traditions.
In these pages we will share with you information and tips, based upon years of experience, to help you as you care for your historic building. Maintaining it and using appropriate materials, protecting it from crime and finding funding when it needs repair are all covered within the “Historic Churches” section and we will tell you how and where to find further expert support when you need it.
In this section