Interior, first floor, showing curved pews on first floor, straight pews on ground floor with organ pipes and central pulpit.
United Reformed Church, High St, Wellingborough © Historic England DP081003
United Reformed Church, High St, Wellingborough © Historic England DP081003

Places of Worship

England’s historic places of worship are managed and maintained by thousands of volunteers who give their time and raise money to make them fit for use.  Historic England supports their faithful efforts to care for these special places, keeping them open for worship and many other cultural, social and educational purposes in the twenty-first century. 

These pages will help you to understand:

  • What makes your building significant
  • Whether it is listed as nationally important
  • How you get the permissions needed to carry out repairs, maintenance and adaptations
  • Issues to think about when making changes to your place of worship
  • What to do when considering a new or alternative use for a place of worship.

What do we mean by a place of worship?

We are often asked why we don’t simply use the word ‘church’. The answer is that a wide range of denominations and faiths are using historic buildings.   

Most are Christian churches or chapels but there is also a rich heritage of meeting houses, synagogues, gurdwaras, temples, mandirs and mosques, plus an increasing number of secular buildings now being used by faith groups, such as former schools and cinemas. If they are open for public worship six times a year then they all count as places of worship. Our job is to offer advice to all of these groups.

What do you want to do?

Looking after an historic place of worship is a challenge. By providing informal advice we can help with the technical issues and legal processes you will encounter as you develop ideas. We also have a statutory role in the planning system once your proposals have been fully developed and submitted to the relevant authorising body.

We offer specific advice on:

  • Doing work to maintain or repair your building
  • Making internal changes or installing new facilities for community use
  • Finding help to develop a project or organise fundraising
  • Dealing with the impact of specific challenges

Whatever you are planning we can give you the initial support to get you on your way.

Please refer to our Making Changes section if you are considering altering your place of worship.