Redundant Churches

A constant feature of the Annual Report to the Council from the Committee for Redundant Bells since its formation over 40 years ago has been a list of statistics concerning redundancies. The statistics are missing from this year’s Report as they were not available from the Church Commissioners by the time the Reports had to be in to the Secretary. They are now available.

Churches closed under the Pastoral Measure itself since its inception 42 years ago number 1,812. This figure of church closures is slightly underestimated because another 135 churches have either been closed under old legislation or under Acts of Parliament or have had a closure scheme made that has not come into effect. The total figure is therefore getting towards 2,000. However, 56 cases were only partial cases and two buildings have been the subject of two schemes each.

The rate of closures continues to decline and only 17 church buildings were closed for regular public worship in 2010 - probably less than the number that opened.

Over the last 10 years the rate of demolition and the rate of vesting in the Churches Conservation Trust has significantly slowed. This is probably to be expected as in the early years opportunity was taken by dioceses to vest historically significant churches in the CCT (and its predecessor - the Redundant Churches Fund) at the earliest opportunity and the most likely cases were all vested in the first 20 years or so. Only six churches have been vested in the CCT in the last five years - reflecting the substantial reduction of funding to the Trust and its ever increasing financial commitment with the churches that it already has (107 with rings of bells).

15% of churches declared redundant have been sold for residential use and just under 9% for use by other Christian bodies. 8% of churches have been kept as a monument; 4% have gone to commercial use and 4% have been kept for “parochial or ecclesiastical purposes”. The other cases are all divided between use for arts & crafts or educational or museums or for music and drama or “other”.

The percentage used for residential purposes appears to be pretty constant but it is 18% over the last 5 years and so the Committee remains concerned that the Institutions involved recognise that it is sensible for bells to be removed from the church for use in another church rather than remain out of use in the redundant building - not an easy task.

Nonetheless, the Church Commissioners are very sympathetic to ringers’ views in this respect and much more could be done than is at present if Ringing Associations were more actively involved in cases where bells are at risk in churches before they are declared redundant. The case of Bollington and the work of Chester Diocesan Guild is a shining example of what can be achieved and it is to be hoped that affiliated Guilds and Associations will not be slow to follow the lead of the CDG in seeking to safeguard the ringing future of bells in churches about to be declared redundant.

BOB COOLES on behalf of the Committee for Redundant Bells

The Ringing World, June 10, 2011, pages 602 and 604, July 1, 2011, page 688

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