A UK charity has given grants worth more than $700,000 to 64 churches to repair them and keep them open. The nonprofit is devoted to promoting and supporting the historical, architectural and artistic heritage of church buildings as an asset to their communities.
The National Churches Trust is distributing £584,000 in funding to the churches—a boon for many of the places of worship that struggled to raise money for conservancy projects during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funds are a “much-needed lifeline” for UK churches, needed for “safeguarding unique local heritage and keeping churches open and in use for the benefit of local people,” according to Huw Edwards, vice president of the National Churches Trust.
Part of the funding stems from the trust’s partnership with the Wolfson Foundation, an independent London-based charity engaged in a wide range of funding programs and education and research activities aimed at enhancing the “civic health of society.”
“Churches play a central role in the spiritual life of a community, but they are also an integral, much loved, part of our cultural heritage,” Paul Ramsbottom, chief executive at the Wolfson Foundation, said, adding: “We are delighted to be … supporting the preservation of these remarkable and wonderful buildings.”
Among the church buildings that will benefit from the National Churches Trust grants is the Church of Saint Walburge in the northern England city of Preston. The church needs urgent roof repairs and has been listed as a “Heritage at Risk” by the National Heritage List For England, which maintains a register of nationally protected historic buildings and sites.
Designed by the British architect Joseph Hansom—a Catholic whose architectural legacy includes more than 200 buildings, mostly churches, schools, convents and presbyteries—the church was completed in 1854.
“It is one of the finest examples of a large mid-19th century urban Catholic church,” and was praised as “‘one of the most extraordinary churches in Britain’” in the 1990 edition of The Faber Guide to Victorian Churches, according to the National Churches Trust. The church has the third-tallest spire in Britain—and the tallest on any parish church.
The funding will also provide urgent sandstone and masonry repairs to Hexham Abbey. Built in 674 A.D. as a Benedictine monastery, it was a cathedral from 678 to 821 A.D. and was destroyed by the Vikings in 875 A.D., according to Historic England’s register. The National Churches Trust describes Hexham Abbey as “one of the oldest surviving Christian foundations in Britain.”
The full list of the National Churches Trust grants for 2022 can be found here.
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