The National Churches Trust – the charity for people who love church buildings.
Churches chapels and meeting houses are some of the most beautiful and important buildings in the UK.
As Bill Bryson, one of our best loved authors puts it: “Nothing else in the built environment has the emotional and spiritual resonance, the architectural distinction, the ancient, reassuring solidity of a parish church.”
Our latest research shows that there around 40,500 church buildings being use for worship and our work is dedicated to keeping them open.
The National Churches Trust is best known for the grants we provide for urgent repairs to keep church buildings windproof and watertight.
The last few years has seen a large increase in the demand for our grants, following the decision of the National Heritage Lottery Fund to end its ring-fenced Grants to Places of Worship scheme and the ending of Government backed repair programmes. In 2018 we awarded 228 grant awards totalling £1.2 million and increased the level of our grant giving to our priority areas, including Northern Ireland. Because they have so many churches, the majority of our grants go to Church of England buildings. But any church can apply to us for a grant, provided it is in the UK and open for regular worship. It is also important to note that we also fund unlisted churches.
We support a wide variety of projects through our grant programmes. From repairing a roof to helping to install an accessible toilet – and many other projects – our grants help keep churches open for worship and community activities and allow them to continue serve people in all sorts of ways.
There are three types of grant available – Cornerstone, Gateway and Foundation Grants for Maintenance. Full details can be found at www.nationalchurchestrust.org/grants
Of course, fixing things when they go wrong can be an expensive business. So, in 2018 we launched MaintenanceBooker, www.maintenancebooker.org.uk, a website that makes it easy to keep churches in good repair. Tackling essential maintenance tasks sooner rather than later is really important as it saves money in the long term.
The website makes it possible to find accredited contractors to book services such as gutter clearance and repairs, lightning protection inspection, tree surveys and maintenance, asbestos surveys and removal and masonry repairs, lime mortaring and high level maintenance. It is free to register on the site and grants are available to help pay for some services.
The third bow to our string is encouraging more people to visit churches. That could be to see their amazing architecture, learn about their history or simply to find a place for spiritual refreshment.
Key to this is our ExploreChurches website, www.explorechurches.org, where we already list over 3,000 churches and chapels together with high quality photographs and essential visitor information.
ExploreChurches appeals to people interested in heritage and history who may not have thought of visiting a church as well as those who already do. It complements the websites of the main denominations and individual churches which are more often focused on service times and the mission of places of worship.
Another project which has got more people into churches has been Great Interpretations, https://www.nationalchurchestrust.org/news/great-interpretations-0 This told the stories of over 50 churches in the Horncastle Deanery, Lincolnshire.
Working with volunteers, stewards and clergy of these buildings, it made it easier for them to understand their heritage, record priceless treasures and promote their churches to audiences far and wide in order to encourage visitors, raise income and make them more sustainable.
On completion of the project in April 2019, the large majority of churches who took part had increased their visitor numbers and are now armed with the resources, information and a new confidence to make them more resilient in the future.
The National Churches Trust receives no direct funding from government or church authorities. Our work is made possible by the generosity of our Friends and supporters, Trusts and Foundations and from investments. Some of our projects are helped by grants from organisations such as the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Our Friends are vital source of support to the Trust. We love church buildings, so if you do too, please do consider joining us today by getting in touch with us on 020 7222 0605 or joining online.
And if you want help and advice about your church building, we’d be delighted to help. Just call us on 0207 227 1936 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.