Dreaming Spires: Heritage Churches

Few buildings hold such history as cathedrals and churches, making a substantial contribution to the UK’s historic environment as well as offering a place for spiritual reflection.

Beautiful heritage buildings encourage tourism, with as many visitors coming to admire their ancient architecture as to worship.

A total of 12,500 church buildings in the UK are listed. 45% of all England’s Grade I listed buildings are cathedrals and churches.


Caring for your listed building

Looking after a listed church building requires special considerations, both technically and legally. You may be required to maintain and repair your building to certain standards, or use particular materials to preserve original features. You may also be restricted when it comes to making internal changes.

For advice and support on specific issues, contact Historic England.

Advise your broker about your building’s listed status to guarantee your insurance reflects this extra value and a greater likelihood of the need for restoration work.


Non-listed church care

Even if your church isn’t listed, older buildings still require special attention.

When considering using the space for events, evaluate the likelihood of damage and the costs they could incur.

Be careful not to cause damage when hanging things from walls, and watch out for cracked flagstones which could present a danger to the public.

Historic cemeteries and monuments should also be cared for. If your property houses a churchyard, burial ground or memorial, it should be respectfully conserved. You can get further information on this from Historic England, as well as advice on wildlife conservation management and managing churchyard excavations.


Welcoming visitors

Cathedral visits alone are worth an estimated £91m to the local economy, and support over 2,500 jobs. Making a special effort to encourage visitors who wouldn’t normally attend your church can pay off, whether it’s inviting them to see your incredible architecture or join in a community activity.

Such is the popularity of historic buildings as tourist attractions that many buildings no longer used for worship are kept open for visitors by charitable trusts.

Heritage Open Days and Church Days, which encourage visitors into churches and highlight featured sites on their website, are a great way to welcome sightseers and show off your church.