Upcoming Buildings for Mission Events

Posted on: 04/03/2013

CandC MenuDo you struggle with your church building? There are two ‘Buildings for Mission‘ events coming up at the end of next week that may be of interest, particularly for those in the north of England. Both events are linked with the wonderful Christianity and Culture.

Buildings for Mission: Friday 15th March 2013, at the Church of St Michael and All Angels, Houghton le Spring, Co Durham

This is organised by Inspired North East and is billed as a practical conference to help you take a fresh look at your church building; the cost is just £15. The keynote speaker is The Right Revd David Stancliffe, who is the former Bishop of Salisbury and also wrote the excellent Lion Guide to Church Architecture. The day includes a section on Tools for Action, and a serious of workshops looking at a variety of case studies.  Click here for booking information.

Buildings for Mission 2: Saturday 16th March 2013, at the Church of St. Peter’s, Norton on Derwent, North Yorkshire

This could be billed as ‘The Sequel’, as it addresses the four main areas of interest that emerged from the feedback forms from the first ever ‘BFM’ day in March of last year. These ‘hot button’ issues are the liturgical and practical issues around reordering for worship, seeing your building’s potential, interpretation materials for church buildings, and how to create a Statement of Significance

Cost for half a day £15, or the full day £25 including lunch and refreshments. Click here for booking information.

Why am I interested?

Both events will include a demonstration of a new Statements of Significance Tool which has been developed by C&C with significant input from English Heritage, and should revolutionise the creation of these crucial documents. The Tool is web-based, and splits the process into 10 sections, so that the work involved can be divided between different people, and will always be available to be updated. The Tool will be trialled at both of the above events; by using the event venue as a model, the idea is to get feedback on the way it works prior to its launch later in the year.

Coming to a church near you…

Christianity and Culture has designed ‘BFM’ as a toolkit of parts to enable dioceses across the country to run the same event. If you are interested in this, please contact C&C (01904 328095), and speak to Louise Hampson.

Storytelling Technologies

Posted on: 20/12/2012

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the Churches Tourism Association convention. The final morning featured a ‘Using Technology’ session which featured of presentations on a number of relevant technologies. I’m hoping to do a short series of posts looking at some of these in turn.

What Did Google Ever Do For Us?

We’re all familiar with Street View on Google Maps – a great way of checking what an unfamiliar place looks like before you get there. And of course it only shows you the outside of buildings, right? Not any more! Google Business Street View is an extension of plain old Street View into the interiors of publicly accessible buildings. Google’s idea is to let you see the inside of commercial buildings such as restaurants – Google has some information here. Fine for businesses (for which Google developed it) but it turns out this technology is great for churches too!

View Larger Map
Street ViewChris Jones of LeicesterPhoto Design demonstrated the technology, using the example of the medieval St Mary De Castro Church in Leicester, for which he was the commissioned photographer. The tell-tale on Google Maps is when you come to a double arrow – see the picture to the left – which indicates that you can ‘cross the threshold’ into an accessible interior. Chris has some information on this service here. (If the above example doesn’t show for any reason, go to Google Maps and enter the postcode LE1 5WH.)

So why is this technology interesting?

For historic buildings Street View is a new way that enables them to tell their story (in visual form at least). Clearly this doesn’t give the ‘visitor’ the full experience of being in the space, let alone the historical detail. But as a taster it is fantastic. And this is relevant whether your church is steeped in history, or is “post war charmless” – either way it helps people who have never visited the building before to feel more comfortable crossing the threshold. Not knowing what to expect is a powerful disincentive for people unused to church – and church buildings – to engage with us. This is a great example of one area where the church can learn from the world of retail. Even better, it is an area where the Church of England is leading retail – Chris is one of 20 accredited photographers who have agreed a national pricing structure with the Anglican Church, and the group will shortly be doing a test shoot for the National Churches Trust.

Cambridge Walking Tour

Posted on: 25/09/2012

The Round Church, CambridgeThis Saturday I will be leading a walking tour of Cambridge churches on behalf of The Ecclesiological Society. We will be looking at 5 buildings in the centre of Cambridge, and in particular focusing on the 25 years from 1842-1867 during which time significant new churches were built and almost every medieval church in the city was altered.

The Cambridge Camden Society

Ecclesiological Society SealIt was in Cambridge that the Cambridge Camden Society was founded in 1839, and from here that the transformation of Victorian church architecture spread through The Ecclesiologist and other publications. The Society was founded by 3 undergraduates, including the hymn writer J M Neale (‘All Glory, Laud, and Honour’, ‘Good King Wenceslas’, and ‘O come, O come, Emmanuel’…). When part of Holy Sepulchre Church (‘The Round Church’) collapsed in 1841 the Society seized the opportunity and funded a demonstration project for their ideas, in Anthony Salvin’s restoration. In 1845 the Society renamed itself the Ecclesiological Society; the current Society dates from a refounding of the original in 1879. The Society’s seal was designed by AWN Pugin – note the Round Church appearing at the bottom. For more on the seal see the Ecclesiological Society website (follow About Us etc). If you’re interested in the history of churches then membership of the Society is an absolute bargain and highly recommended.

The Usual Suspects

It is interesting to note the same (national) architects repeatedly involved in different projects. For example after the Round Church Anthony Salvin did some minor work at nearby Great St Mary’s and at Jesus College Chapel; George F Bodley not only designed the new All Saints Church, but also worked at Jesus Chapel, and of course George Gilbert Scott seems to have worked everywhere, designing the new Chapel for St Johns College, restoring St Michael’s, St Edward’s etc etc.

An altogether different character was Ambrose Poynter who designed three new churches in Cambridge – Christchurch Newmarket Road (1837 – a reduced version of Kings College Chapel in brick), St Paul’s Hill’s Road (1841 – red brick and loosely modelled on Great St Mary’s), and St Andrew the Great (1842). St Paul’s is interesting because it was attacked by Pugin in the first edition of The Ecclesiologist (November 1841):

“The church is of no particular style or shape but it may be described as a conspicuous red brick building something between Elizabethan and debased Perpendicular architecture … the huge clock, the disproportionate octagonal turrets, the great four-centred belfry, windows without cuspings or mouldings … the square clerestory windows; the enormous windows in the aisles … the graduated parapet of the nave … are quite indefensible.”

More Info

If you are interested in the itinerary for the walk you can download a pdf flier here. If you want to join the tour you would be very welcome, but please let me know beforehand (you can do so via the comments below). The charge for the day is £25 (cheque to The Ecclesiological Society on the day), which includes entry into all of the buildings.

Coventry Cathedral App

Posted on: 09/08/2012

coventry app screenshot - namecoventry app screenshot - trailsThose of you interested in how technology can help tell stories may be interested in the new app that will shortly be released for Coventry Cathedral. There are versions for iOS and Android.

The app is one in a growing series produced by the wonderful people at Christianity and Culture in York. What C&C are so good at is providing content that is well researched, compellingly presented and also (if you are interested) spiritually throught-provoking.

coventry cathedral screenshot - mapcoventry cathedral screenshot - menu











The The initial feel of the app is very good, with easy navigation and engaging content. The menu page provides a number of ways to access the material. From the trails section you can choose one of the following four themes:

  • The three cathedrals that have occupied the site;
  • Art and Architecture – focusing more on the features of the building;
  • Pilgrim Trail – which gives you more of the faith content;
  • Explore – a more general guide including most of the above.

I particularly liked the audio bit – giving a feel for the acoustic of the second cathedral before it was destroyed by bombing in 1940. I tested the app out on site at Coventry a couple of weeks ago, and it worked well – certainly better than the audio tours, which you have to return to the desk before you’ve had a chance to listen to the information that relates to the outside of the building! And the app is great because you can download it and explore the building before you visit, which makes the experience while you are there all the richer and less hurried.

coventry cathedral screenshot - glasscoventry cathedral screenshot - tour











Visitors and Pilgrims

Why does this matter? Because there are lots of people who are drawn towards our church buildings who would not identify themselves as Christian. Interpretive materials such as these teach us all more of the story of these buildings, but particularly they open them up to the visitor in a way that printed materials cannot. They are part of our welcome, and perhaps the beginning of a conversation that may see some that come as visitors leaving as pilgrims.

Why not download the app and explore for yourself? The app is due for an official launch by the Cathedral, but until then C&C would appreciate any feedback on glitches, or suggestions. They can be contacted by emailing the C&C office.

The English Parish Church

Posted on: 30/11/2011

The English Parish Church through the CenturiesThe English Parish Church through the Centuries is an extraordinarily rich DVD-ROM resource that has been produced by The Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture at the University of York. This effectively is an encyclopaedia of information on how we end up with the church buildings we do, covering everything from the early church up to the present day. The resource contains everything from easily accessible introductions to the latest academic research on parish churches and the influence of Christianity on literature, music, art and society.


  • 600 articles by over 225 experts in their respective fields
  • Video sections
  • Audio – eg church music of different ages
  • Interactive 3D models of how churches have developed from Saxon times to the present day
  • Galleries of images from national and international collections.
  • Glossary of terms, good for the complete beginner upwards
  • Christianity and writers such as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Donne, Milton, Dickens, Brontes, Wordsworth, TS Eliot, Tolkien, DH Lawrence.
  • Case studies detailing individual churches from around the country.
  • Practical sections on care, conservation, creative use, re-ordering and interpretation of church buildings and their contents.

EPC Resource Centre - Internal 3D modelStructure

The resource structures each time period along the following themes

  • Introduction
  • Context
  • Daily Life and Worship
  • Church Art and Architecture
  • Interaction with Society
  • Interaction with Culture


So Why Should I Be Interested?

In short, because we live in an age of forgetting. Ironic isn’t it, when we are awash with more and more knowledge, that we seem to know less and less about where we have come from? This was the impetus behind the setting up of Christianity and Culture, that first year undergraduates were coming up to university with little or no frame of reference for the Christian cultural foundation of much of what they were studying.

But the forgetting goes the other way too – in the church we forget how much Christian content there still is within the culture at large, and are also woefully ignorant of where we have come from. I for one have learned a good deal from the small part of the resource that I have accessed to date.

And who would benefit from this resource? Well, almost anyone. Any church needing to prepare a Statement of Significance (and that’s most of us) would be well advised to have a copy. All Rural and Area Deans should have at least one copy. It would work well in schools, for architects and other building professionals – anyone really. Even my 7 year-old enjoyed it, particularly the external and internal 3D virtual model of the church.

EPC_ResourceCentre_case-studiesSo How Do I Get A Copy?

The resource costs £17.50 plus postage, which in itself is an absolute bargain and available by following the link from the C&C website. Alternatively if you contact candc@york.ac.uk and quote “churchbuild” you can get a copy for £15 plus £1 postage (within the UK). Even better!

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (George Santayana, from “Life of Reason”)

“Here For Life”

Posted on: 11/11/2011

Creation, from the Genesis Cycle at the west door of York Minster


We’ve just posted some material over at curiosus.co.uk, our blog about conservation and heritage management, on the slogan “Here for Life”, which stands emblematically for an integration between people and places through time, the three critical dimensions of sound cultural heritage management.

In thinking further about this within a church context, the phrase also works well as a motto or rallying cry for churches engaged in their communities. Lots of churches do not make positive use of the physical presence of their buildings as anchors within their community, nor of the life stories that are associated with, and often commemorated in, that place. Equally the church is nothing if it is not about people being drawn together into the life of God. As Jesus said (John 10.10),

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly”.


It is much like the response to the reading of the law in Nehemiah chapter 8. Clearly what looks very much like revival was not caused by the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. But nor would it have happened without that rebuilding, because the walls created a sense of belonging, of restored identity, and of placedness before God. The same is true of our church buildings, of whatever age – or at least it can be if we engage with them properly.

So when thinking about your church buildings, “Here for Life” seems a helpful phrase to keep in mind.

The Book that Could Change the Life of your Church…

Posted on: 16/08/2011

110816-pewsbookTrevor Cooper and Sarah Brown’s long-awaited book Pews, Benches and Chairs has just been published within the last few days. It is no exaggeration to say that this book could change the life or your church – at least for those churches that struggle with the formalism that comes with Victorian pews.

Often churches assume they are unable to change anything about their church, and particularly the pews, but usually there is more freedom than imagined. Conversely other churches may not understand the historic importance of some of their pews. Either way, the key to responsible management of a historic church, and to making the case for change, is a proper understanding of the significance of the items in question. This book helps to fill that gap.

The book results from many years of painstaking research, and Trevor himself says that the assumptions with which the editors embarked on this project were changed in the process of the research.

More information on the book is available from the Ecclesiological Society, including the following taster:

About the book
The book breaks fresh ground. Amongst other things, it is the first book to:
– describe how church seating has changed over the years
– tackle head-on today’s debate about pew removal
– show how the study of individual pews can reveal their past
– take a serious look at Victorian pews, and reprint pew-catalogues of the period
– explore the vigorous nineteenth-century discussions on pews versus chairs
– explain how to consider changes to church seating, taking account of heritage value
– give a range of case studies of recent changes (including a ‘loo in a pew’)

For a feel for the scope of the work and the various contributors, the table of contents can be accessed here. The book is copiously illustrated with black and white illustrations which are exceptionally clear.

The current cry from the heritage lobby, quite rightly, is for ‘Informed Conservation’. If your church is considering a reordering then this book will equip you with a great deal of relevant information; if you are a consultant working with historic churches then it is essential reading.

The book costs £35 (order details on the Ecclesiological Society page), or £25 for Ecclesoc members. At just £12, membership of the society is a bargain – highly recommended.

Trevor Cooper is Chairman of Council of the Ecclesiological Society.

Sarah Brown is a lecturer in the History of Art at the University of York and Course Director of the MA in Stained Glass Conservation and Heritage Management.


Why Metal Theft is Good Business (but not for you…)

Posted on: 14/07/2011
Metal Theft Sign

New Forest District Council

At a recent Capacity Building Seminar in Birmingham, Dr David Knight, Senior Conservation Officer at the Church Buildings Council presented a report on metal theft from churches – you can access his presentation here. The issue is a very live one, and David’s talk highlighted aspects that are both worrying and interesting in equal measure.

The problem of metal theft from buildings is a growing one due to the increase of raw commodity prices over the last decade or so, principally from economic growth in China – and this problem does not only affect churches. As well as rising demand there is very limited supply, which will mean that we will run out of lead within perhaps two generations. And many sorts of buildings are affected, not just churches – in general, however, it is historic buildings that are the principal victims of this crime.

A Tale of Two Strategies

So what can we do to address this problem? The first strategy  is to make theft more difficult – this can be done in a number of ways, all of which are helpful:

  • Regulation of scrapyards: The aim of this is to remove easy access to cash. The proposal is for the government to introduce mandatory licensing for dealing in scrap lead, requiring the recording of registration details of each vehicle entering the yard, and making anonymous sale illegal. The Church Buildings Council has held meetings with the Home Office and has submitted a report which is being actively considered.
  • Alarms – there are various systems, using sound and/or light which have proved a useful deterrent – systems need to require multiple activation, to avoid being set off by a falling leaf.
  • Metal Theft from church roof

    Metal Theft from Church Roof | New Forest District Council

    Watermarking – Painting at least a fraction of each metal surface with ‘Smartwater’ provides a forensic marker on the lead which will allow any lead stolen from your building to be traced back. There have been successful prosecutions of thieves by this method; however, this will only stop a theft if you advertise the fact that your material is protected in this way, and if the thieves understand this and believe you.

Ecclesiastical Insurance has a web page dedicated to Metal Theft, with an excellent report in pdf form.

Harvest time

We must confront the fact that for those that do the thieving, the metal is there for the taking – they are in effect harvesting what they see as a free resource. Replacing that resource like for like without at the very least increasing security along the lines above will simply result in repeated return visits. In his talk David also presented the following graph (from Ecclesiastical Insurance), which shows the trading price of metals against the level of insurance claims over a period of 4 years. What the graph shows is that metal theft is a planned crime.

Graph Comparing the Trading Price of Metals with the Level of Insurance Claims

Graph Comparing the Trading Price of Metals with the Level of Insurance Claims | Ecclesiastical

The implications of this are huge. As far as the thieves are concerned this is a business. As commodity prices increase further, as they inevitably will because of limited supply, then it will pay the thieves to become smarter, which means that security strategies on their own will never be the full answer. If we care for our historic buildings, we therefore cannot rely on security measures alone. We must fight business with business – we must understand the commercial dynamic and respond in kind. I firmly believe that in this case that means reducing demand by specifying alternative materials, of which there are various possibilities, including:

  • single ply membrane (Sarnafil, Alwitra etc); this is  a good material, available in a wide range of colours, but while you can simulate lead roll detailing it will never look the same – in my view this is therefore best used for roofs behind parapets, or for parapet gutters;
  • Terne coated stainless steel – the surface of the material appears very much like lead (or copper), but the detailing is sharper and more modern looking;
  • Ubliflex – a non lead flashing material which can be used in all applications where lead is traditionally installed, such as valley gutters, cover flashings, step flashings etc.
Clearly not every historic building is suitable to receive these alternative materials – the choice of materials should follow an understanding of their significance. There is no doubt, however, that previous generations up to and including the Victorians would have taken a pragmatic view of this, and would specify the material that would be best for the building in the long term.
If we are to address the significant problem of metal theft from historic buildings then we need to do so from all angles, including taking the heat out of the market by reducing the demand for the ‘product’; until we do so, we leave our historic buildings exposed to increasing abuse.
Please let me know your thoughts on this issue.

My church is listed so I canʼt change anything, can I?

Posted on: 15/02/2011

photo: Natalie MaynorThat is almost never the case! The key thing is to understand the heritage value of the building and its fittings, and make the case for change in light of that. One needs to start from an understanding of why the building is listed, and to what grade (in increasing order of importance the grades are 2, 2* or 1); 90% of listed buildings are grade 2. And then one needs to understand the impact of any proposed changes on the heritage value of the building.

The established denominations (Church of England, Baptist Union, Methodist etc) enjoy what is called ‘Ecclesiastical Exemption’ which means that Listed Building issues are dealt with by the church authorities (Diocesan Advisory Committee, Baptist Union Listed Building Advisory Committee etc). Generally these folk are sympathetic to your aims, provided you can demonstrate that you have thought them through. For other churches, and where the proposals involve an extension of any kind, the Local Authority Conservation Department will also have a say.

Histon Baptist Church was listed during the course of the building project; because the building is unusually ornate for a Baptist church this did not come as a great surprise. The practical implications of this were:

  • another round of permission-seeking was needed from the Baptist Union Listed Building Advisory Committee; this took several meetings and quite some time.
  • some existing fittings needed careful reuse within the building, for example a stone pulpit which was moved and a selection of the pews.
  • the church was able to reclaim the VAT on the alteration works (but not on repairs and maintenance).

So it was not all bad news by any means, and crucially the main thrust of the scheme – creating a prime venue with flexible open space, new lighting and AV equipment – was successfully achieved.

Photo credit: Natalie Maynor

Am I stuck with these Victorian pews?

Posted on: 15/02/2011

Pews at Histon Baptist ChurchProbably not, is the surprising answer. I’m a big proponent of taking out the pews because it can revolutionise the usefulness and the feel of the church space.

Some points to consider:

  • Were the pews designed for the building or, as was often the case, were they bought from a catalogue? The Victorians tended to cram as many pews into churches as they could, because there were subsidies to encourage this! In most cases these were mass produced and of little architectural merit, so can more easily be removed.
  • Is the church listed? If so, you will need permission for changes to the fixed furniture.
  • When were the pews installed, and have they already been moved around? Some homework here can help a great deal in making the case for change.

Clearly there are some churches where you are stuck with the pews – for example if the pews are medieval, or are an integral part of a very special and particular design. In most other cases there is scope for making changes. The key thing is to do the appropriate research and then make a good case for the change.

At Histon Baptist Church, which is a listed building, all the pews were removed; these were original to the Edwardian building but were of cheap construction. Having taken them all out, some pews were stripped and refinished and then put back around the edges, leaving the main part of the space beautifully open.

Coupled with a newly levelled natural oak floor and underfloor heating the space has been transformed. Here the Listed Building Committee asked us to retain 15-20% of the originals; the remainder were sold or given away.

There is also a ‘political’ issue, which is that not everyone likes change – many people are very fearful of it. There are many village parishes where those in the community feel a sense of ownership of ‘our’ church, even if they never darken its doors. These folk should not be ignored, and their concerns need sensitive handling – ignore them at your peril!

First steps

Always start with some historical research, and arrive at an assessment of how important the pews are to the significance of the building as a whole. You should already know this if you have prepared a Statement of Significance; if not, now is a good time to write one.

If you want to get a feel for the additional space you could create, you could consider temporarily removing a section of pews, perhaps for a specific event. Often existing pews can be ‘unbolted’ and moved into storage – this makes it easier to focus people on the benefits that the change will bring.