Church ceiling mural featuring sun, moon, stars, trees and a hand flanked by clouds, all against a bright blue background.
Ceiling mural at the Church of St Andrew, Sunderland: painted in 1927 by MacDonald Gill, to the design of E S Prior. © Historic England Archive DP248636
Ceiling mural at the Church of St Andrew, Sunderland: painted in 1927 by MacDonald Gill, to the design of E S Prior. © Historic England Archive DP248636

Places of Worship at Risk

We continue to make the case for listed places of worship as heritage in their own right, as cultural centres for communities and as faith buildings. We support the people who look after them so they can share them with their communities and make them open as places of well-being for people of all faiths and none. We assess Grade I, Grade II*, and Grade II listed places of worship across England. 

The listed places of worship in England provide spaces for worship as well as social and community events, allowing people to gather for a wide range of practical and spiritual reasons. Most provide a haven for individuals needing a quiet, safe and peaceful place to take a break from daily worries, isolation and anxiety, irrespective of their own beliefs.

They continue to accommodate celebration and grief, shared and private experiences, art, music and sculpture, toddler groups, political hustings, wellbeing groups and addiction support sessions. These are significant spaces in which human experience has been, and continues to be, both welcome and supported.

The threats to places of worship

We work closely with groups of all denominations and faiths to monitor the condition of listed places of worship.

Entries on the Heritage at Risk Register include buildings which are generally in fair or good condition, but with a significant problem with one major element, such as the tower.

The main threats are failing:

  • Roofs
  • Rainwater goods
  • High-level stonework

Carrying out simple, regular maintenance is essential to prevent these buildings declining into a poor or very bad condition.

Holy Redeemer, Islington

This beautiful church (The Church of our Most Holy Redeemer), by Victorian architect John Seddon, is located in the bustling community of Clerkenwell’s Exmouth Market and reflects the architect’s background as a prime figure in the Arts and Crafts movement (of the later 19th Century). Removed from the HAR register upon completion of roof repairs to the aisle and church offices.

Support for places of worship

Historic England recognises that the responsibility for the care of historic places of worship relies entirely on the efforts of local faith groups.

We continue to offer support to congregations through grants to denominational and faith bodies to enable them to employ Support Officers. Since 2008, over 40 such posts have been created throughout England, helping congregations look after their buildings and giving access to a wide range of skills and advice. So far, they have provided 4,000 congregations with support and advice, over half of which were given long-term sustained support to meet challenges and develop projects.

Nearly a thousand places of worship were able to undertake repair projects thanks to the Heritage Stimulus Fund, keeping buildings fit to serve their communities, not only during the pandemic but throughout subsequent economic challenges. An evaluation of the impact of the £90.3m invested shows the extraordinary commitment of faith groups to continue to care for their buildings. A short video about the impact on one community, in Great Yarmouth, celebrates a story that is repeated across the country, showing how in the midst of national crisis great things were achieved by determined volunteers. The National Churches Trust provides case studies and films of the 32 buildings it helped through HSF grants. The 39 sites that received grants through the Catholic Church’s are celebrated in its illustrated publication.

We continue to work closely with denominations and faith groups regionally and nationally. The Places of Worship Forum shares insight, knowledge and experience of faith groups using listed places of worship.

We are exploring how places of worship can cope with climate change, find appropriate ways to become more energy efficient and create places that offer beauty, support for vulnerable people and contribute to thriving places and community identity everywhere. The ever-present problem of funding to achieve these things is also a key focus for the Forum. 

Church of the Ascension, Salford

This robust Early English-style Church of the Ascension was added to the register in 2014, and phases of repair work followed. However, in 2018 these efforts were lost when a devastating fire engulfed the building. With the roof, glazing, fittings and floor completely lost, its restoration proved challenging but ultimately achievable with the hard work of the parish, consultants, contractor and insurance company. Now in excellent condition, it embodies the regeneration and renewal which has been a key feature in this part of Salford.

Historic England's guidance

Historic England supports congregations and faith groups using historic buildings, whether they were built as places of worship or have been converted for that purpose.

We offer advice on sensitively adapting spaces and installing new facilities so that places of worship can be used for a wide range of purposes. We also provide technical guidance. This covers a variety of topics from building repairs to making places of worship more resilient to climate change. Many congregations are also working to achieve Net Zero by 2030 and Historic England has a range of guidance on low carbon technologies to inform decisions about how to achieve this.

A Listing Selection guide to the range of places of worship and their architectural and historic significance is available online, as are our short guides to 19th- and 20th-century Roman Catholic churchesNonconformist places of worship and an Introduction to Anglo-Jewish Burial Grounds. Historic England has also published guidance on the Theft of Metal from Church Roofs: Prevention and Response, on the Theft of Metal from Church Roofs: Replacement Materials, and on Church Roof Replacement Using Terne-coated Steel.