Looking back to Christmas 2023: Nearly 5,000 churches across the United Kingdom benefit from £42 million conservation fund

The UK Government has updated on the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme, supporting the protection of religious buildings representing all faiths and denominations, benefiting local communities.

image: Open Government Licence v3.0

… Since 2010, the Places of Worship Fund has invested £346 million…

GOV.UK writes:

  • Cash boost comes as more than a million people across the country expected to attend Midnight Mass and Christmas Day services in their local church
  • Since 2010, the Government has returned £346 million to listed churches, synagogues, mosques and temples

Nearly 5,000 religious buildings in the United Kingdom have received a share of up to £42 million in public funding ahead of this year’s festive celebrations, as the Government continues its support for the conservation of listed places of worship across the country.

As more than one million people are expected to attend Midnight Mass and Christmas Day services, they might be attending one of the 4,900 places of worship which have benefited from Government support over the last year to ease the cost of essential conservation and maintenance work.

Beneficiaries of the scheme this year include:

  • Leicester Cathedral in Leicester, which has received more than £600,000 to restore the historic building, including renewing the cathedral’s heating, lighting and electrics and creating a heritage learning centre for visitors from the local community and beyond;
  • the 11th-century Chichester Cathedral in Chichester, which has received more than £195,000 for its roof and lighting projects. The cash from the Listed Places of Worship Fund has also supported organ repair and maintenance, new fire and intruder alarms, and support with other major projects to protect this Norman building;
  • the 12th-century Collegiate Church of St Mary in Warwick, which has been granted over £141,500 to repair the ancient tower, including work on the clocks and faces. Funding also supported the maintenance of electric and heating systems as well as new security and alarm systems;
  • the Grade II*-listed All Saints’ Church in Wokingham, which has received £112,000 to rebuild the Copeman Hart organ and install new speakers. New underfloor heating was installed alongside an accessible toilet and entrance;
  • Salford Cathedral, which has received more than £452,000 for a series of works to protect the long-term safety of the 19th-century building, including refurbishment of the roof, new insulation, replacement windows and doors, and new lighting;
  • Llandaff Cathedral, originally opened in 1290, which has received more than £67,000 for design and work to replace the current heating and lighting system;
  • Netherlee and Stamperland Parish Church, East Renfrewshire, which has received £104,000 for works to refurbish the sanctuary roof with works to the masonry, gutters, downpipes, lead works and drains;
  • Shankill Parish Church, Lurgan, Craigavon, which received £92,000 to fund the repair of dry rot, the roof and the lightning conductor on the church’s spire.

To mark the impact of the scheme over the last twelve months, Arts and Heritage Minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay visited St Mary’s Church in Hitchin, Hertfordshire to see how the more than £5,000 it has received has helped to support works on the church’s bells.

Arts and Heritage Minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay said:

“As churches across the country fill up for Nativity plays and Christmas services, it’s a reminder of the huge role that they and other places of worship play in the lives of their community.

“The Listed Places of Worship Scheme supports these precious buildings, which are cherished by people of all faiths and none.

“With nearly 5,000 supported over the past year alone, I’m glad to see the difference it has made to visitors, worshippers, and the people who look after them for the benefit of future generations.”

Anne King, leader of the “spaceforall” community project at All Saints’ Church in Wokingham said:

“We simply could not have done the work without the VAT grant. The refund of £250,000 was essential, and, importantly for our cash flow, always paid promptly. We can now run concerts, community drop ins and a lively café as well as enjoying worship in beautiful surroundings.”

Karen Rooms, Dean Designate of Leicester Cathedral said:

“The Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme is providing vital grant support covering the VAT we incur on the extensive repair work being carried out on our Grade II* listed building as part of our Leicester Cathedral Revealed project. We are very grateful for this support which is an essential part of the overall funding package.”

Elizabeth Cranfield, Churchwarden, St Mary’s Church, Hitchin said:

“We are very grateful to this scheme for the grants that we have received over the last few years. The works have included – replacing crumbling stonework; repairs to leaking roofs and gutters; recasting of the tenor bell and provision of rope guides greatly improving the sound and handling of the ring of 12 bells; installation of a roof alarm. These grants have significantly reduced the cost to St Mary’s. It has been easy to use the Scheme and it has undoubtedly supported our vision to keep St Mary’s as a beautiful place of Christian witness for the town and beyond.”

Ruth Bamford, Communar and Bursar for Chichester Cathedral said:

“The Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme has enabled many projects at Chichester Cathedral. Our fundraising arm, the Chichester Cathedral Restoration and Development Trust, do a fantastic job but without the ability to recover VAT through the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme, they would have to fundraise for VAT charges. Funders would rather see their investment go towards something tangible rather than towards taxes.

“Recent projects supported by the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme include the complete replacement of the old leaky copper roof with a new lead one. We are also upgrading the Cathedral’s internal lighting scheme replacing old lights and cabling with a bespoke LED scheme. The new lighting is sympathetic to the building and has reduced energy consumption by 50%.

“Aside from the major projects, the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme also covers many general repair and maintenance costs for the Cathedral, effectively making the Cathedral fabric neutral in respect of VAT.”

Canon Michael Jones of Salford Cathedral said:

“We are delighted and so grateful to have been a beneficiary of the Listed Places of Worship Grant.

“This additional funding is much needed on our journey to fix and restore some of the original design features that have been lost over the years. Not only is the project looking to restore the Cathedral’s heritage, using innovative technologies will also provide new sources of energy to heat and light the Cathedral as well as offer long term drainage and roofing solutions to increasingly unpredictable and extreme patterns of weather associated with climate change.

“The project will enhance the sacred space and what we are able to offer the community here in Salford.”

John Luxton, Church Warden at Collegiate Church of St Mary in Warwick said:

“St Mary’s is incredibly grateful for the support provided by the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme which was critical in enabling the church to raise the funding required to restore the amazing tower of our Grade I listed building.

“I would urge any organisation in a similar position, seeking support, to investigate the scheme and then check out the eligibility criteria.”

Tony Ireland, Project Manager for Netherlee and Stamperland said:

“For us the Listed Places of Worship Scheme was seamlessly administered and the refunds authorised were efficiently delivered direct to our bank account. We found the explanatory notes detailing the operation of the Scheme straightforward to understand and a useful reference tool to establish what works qualified for support under the Scheme. The grant application forms were submitted electronically and after the first form was successfully submitted and approved the subsequent applications confidently followed. For listed property such as ours this Scheme delivered not just financial support but a very real feeling that we were part of an important national effort. Thank you Grants Team!”

Archdeacon Mark Harvey, Rector, Shankill Parish Lurgan said:

“The Church of Christ the Redeemer in the Parish of Shankill, Lurgan, was consecrated for worship in 1863, and is the largest parish church building in the Church of Ireland. Prior to the pandemic, we had been planning to carry out a complete re-ordering of the inside of the church. This had to be delayed however due to urgent repair works. In 2022, we discovered and treated an extensive outbreak of dry rot, and then in 2023, we undertook the enormous task of completely replacing our 160 year-old roof. The total cost of these repair projects was £716,000 plus VAT.

“We could not have completed this work without the benefit of the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme which has enabled us to claim back the VAT on these significant repairs and so reduced the financial burden on the parish.

“We now plan to carry out the internal works to the church starting in mid-2024 at an estimated cost of £1.5-£2 million plus VAT. The support of the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme thus far has been a huge factor in allowing us to progress these plans.”

Since 2010, the Places of Worship Fund has invested £346 million in listed churches, synagogues, mosques and temples. The fund provides grants towards the VAT incurred on eligible costs, such as works to the roofs, masonry and monuments integral to the buildings.

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