Rural Church Buildings
How to look after, develop and utilise them
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1. LOOKING AFTER YOUR BUILDING AND ITS CONTENTS
The importance of regular maintenance for both the fabric of the building as well as its fixtures and fittings
In this section…
1.2 Care of internal fixtures and fittings
One of the keys to ensuring the long-term future of historic places of worship is regular maintenance. Preventative maintenance keeps up a building’s appearance and extends its life. It also prevents the loss of original fabric, as less material is lost in regular, minimal and small-scale work than in extensive restoration projects. Preventative maintenance makes economic sense as it may reduce or potentially eliminate the need for major repair projects. Most grant bodies will want to see that you have a maintenance plan in place.
A lot of maintenance jobs can be undertaken by volunteers and/or you can set up a regular contract with a local contractor to come and do an annual/twice-yearly inspection and clear out high level gutters and hard to reach drains and replace slipped slates etc.
The key is regular monitoring which can take the form of a regular walk around the inside and outside of the building checking for new damp patches or slipped slates.
If you don’t already have one, create a maintenance plan and assign a realistic annual budget to it.
Your diocese may have a maintenance scheme which is designed to make it easier to identify a local reliable contractor.
WHERE TO FIND MORE HELP
Historic England historicengland.org.uk/advice/caring-for-heritage/places-of-worship/maintenance
The Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) has an article on preventative maintenance spab.org.uk/advice/preventative-maintenance. The website has detailed specialist information on maintaining all elements of an old building. spab.org.uk/advice/search-our-knowledgebase?keywords=&category_type=154
Between 2007 and 2012, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic England, SPAB ran the Faith in Maintenance Project (FiM) which offered free training to volunteers who care for historic places of worship, helping them to understand their buildings better and to carry out basic preventative maintenance. Between 2013 and 2017, the SPAB Maintenance Co-operatives Project (MCP), funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, again, provided free-of-charge, practical support to volunteers looking after historic places of worship. They also developed and tested the concept of Maintenance Co-operatives, the idea of encouraging groups of churches to work together to form working parties who would undertake regular maintenance across a number of buildings.
SPAB have put together a Toolkit containing information and resources drawn from the FiM and MCP projects to help you take care of your place of worship and set up your own Maintenance Co-operative spab.org.uk/campaigning/maintenance-co-operatives-project/mcp-fim-resources
ChurchCare has information on maintenance at: churchcare.co.uk/churches/guidance-advice/looking-after-your-church/routine-maintenance including a guidance note on looking after your rainwater goods and drainage churchcare.co.uk/churches/guidance-advice/looking-after-your-church/routine-maintenance/rainwater-goods-and-drainage
There is also a very useful Calendar of Care which reminds you which routine tasks you should be doing each month of the year. churchcare.co.uk/churches/guidance-advice/looking-after-your-church/routine-maintenance/calendar-of-care
If you are a parish looking for support with maintenance contact your DAC Secretary to find out what is available locally.
Several Church of England Dioceses run Maintenance Schemes which help churches link up with accredited local contractors. Some welcome the participation of other denominations. Current schemes include:
For the Roman Catholic Church go to cbcew.org.uk/CBCEW-Home/Departments/Christian-Life-and-Worship/Patrimony/Care-of-Churches
For the United Reformed Church go to urc.org.uk/images/S811%20v2010.pdf
For the Methodist Church, you can download a guidance document called Inspection, Care and Maintenance of Methodist Buildings – A Guide to their Annual Inspection by going to: methodist.org.uk/for-ministers-and-office-holders/property/annual-schedules
For the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the leaflets on maintenance are LB06, Looking after your Church Buildings and LB07 Building Materials and External Fittings in Listed Churches baptist.org.uk/Articles/368708/BUC_Guideline_Leaflet.aspx
MaintenanceBooker is a service from the National Churches Trust which makes it easier for places of worship of all denominations to book maintenance services using professional and experienced contractors. Services currently available include gutter clearance and repairs, lightning protection system inspections, tree surveys and maintenance and asbestos surveys and removal. It was piloted in Yorkshire and is now available in the North East, North West of England, The Midlands, South East and South West of England, the East of England and Greater London and Wales. maintenancebooker.org.uk
The National Churches Trust currently also offers small grants for small urgent maintenance issues nationalchurchestrust.org/our-grants/maintenance-grants
1.2 Care of internal fixtures and fittings
Places of Worship are major repositories of a wide range of significant historic and artistic objects. Unlike domestic items of comparable age, many of these are still in continuous use. While conservation and maintenance issues should be taken into account when using, handling, storing and displaying objects, it should also be remembered that these precious items were meant to be used in the context of worship. Conservation, together with appropriate and informed care, will ensure that the contents of your church will survive to fulfil that function.
Because many of these items will be of artistic and historic significance, you may have to seek professional advice. This will be especially true if you are going to be seeking funding to help you repair or conserve an object/s. You will be expected to commission a conservation report to identify what conservation work is required and to set out the method and materials to be used. You will have to employ an accredited conservator/expert to carry out the actual work.
WHERE TO FIND MORE HELP
For the Church of England the section on Churchcare entitled Art, Artefacts and Conservation provides practical advice on managing conservation projects and how to work with a conservator. churchcare.co.uk/churches/art-artefacts-conservation
The section entitled Caring for your Treasures provides guidance on how to care for a range of objects from bells and bell frames to textiles, from brasses to timberwork and furniture and including wall paintings and stained glass. They will also help you to identify the signs of damage to historic objects and understand the causes of deterioration. churchcare.co.uk/churches/art-artefacts-conservation/caring-for-conservation-of-artworks-historic-furnishings
The Catholic Church has advice and guidance for the care and conservation of churches and their contents here cbcew.org.uk/CBCEW-Home/Departments/Christian-Life-and-Worship/Patrimony/Care-of-Churches
For the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Baptist Union Corporation has written leaflets to help local churches with practical issues, legal matters, property opportunities and problems, and charity law. baptist.org.uk/Groups/220867/Listed_Buildings.aspx The leaflet specific to internal fixtures and fittings is LB08, Furnishings in Listed Churches.
The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) has useful information on the general cleaning of interiors including churches. It covers the kinds of cleaning tools that should be used and the most appropriate cleaning fluids to use in particular circumstances. (NB: Their website is currently being updated)
The UK Institute of Conservation is the main point of contact for locating Accredited Conservators for specialised work or advice. It also has guidance information on how to choose the right specialist. icon.org.uk
Conservators and Restorers can be found through the Conservation Register conservationregister.com
The Building Conservation Directory is an annual publication and an online database of suppliers and professional advisers buildingconservation.com
The National Churches Trust’s website also includes a directory of professional advisers, building contractors and craftsmen at nationalchurchestrust.org/building-advice/professional-trades-directory.
Funding for conservation of fixtures and fittings
The Church of Engand’s Church Buildings Council is able to offer grants to PCCs and Friends groups for the repair and conservation of objects of artistic/historical significance in Anglican churches in England and in need of urgent repair churchcare.co.uk/churches/funding-and-grants
ChurchCare provides a list of other sources of funding for conservation projects and includes a detailed explanation on how the Heritage Lottery Fund may be able to help fund such projects. churchcare.co.uk/churches/funding-and-grants/other-sources-funding
The Heritage Lottery Fund’s Your Heritage programme offers grants of between £3,000 and £100,000 inclusive for projects that relate to the local, regional or national heritage of the UK. You can apply to conserve an object or piece of heritage – this can include bells, clocks, organs, paintings on canvas & wood, wall paintings, monuments, timberwork, ornamental plasterwork, metalwork, books & manuscripts, textiles as well as historic structures and other conservation projects in churchyards. Your application must also show how you are using your project to help people to learn about their own and their community’s heritage and are helping a wider range of people to take an active part in and make decisions about heritage. hlf.org.uk/looking-funding/our-grant-programmes/sharing-heritage