Churches 'at risk' and tourism
Vice-President of The National Churches Trust and broadcaster, Huw Edwards has been drawing attention to the state of decay among many of Britain's historic churches:
'The UK's historic churches and chapels are a vital part of our national heritage. But to survive, many need to carry out urgent repairs and install modern facilities. The cost of this work is far beyond what most congregations can pay for themselves.'
In 2018, the National Churches Trust awarded grants of £1.2 million to help 202 projects at churches and chapels around the UK. The first grants to be made this year total over £300,000 and are helping nine churches that are on the Historic England 'Heritage at Risk Register', such as the Grade 1 listed St Bartholomew Church at Moreton Corbet in Shropshire. Repairs are needed to the stonework of the tower replacement of the tower roof. The church forms part of a group of nationally important buildings at Moreton Corbet including Moreton Corbet Castle, with its impressive ruins of Elizabethan state apartments.
The National Churches Trust says that visitors are looking for more, they want to try out something different and experience something authentic, so it has worked with over 150 churches and chapels to created 60 experiences which will go live this year through - each ExploreChurches Experience having its own web page - and the initiative being supported by £40 million Discover England Fund, administered by VisitBritain/VisitEngland.
Christine Walker, Chief Executive of the National Churches Trust talked about churches having so much to offer tourists and visitors.
'ExploreChurches Experiences makes it easy to book online for a fascinating range of themed visits ...these include hands on activities, behind the scenes tourism and local food and drink as added extras...thanks to the support of the Visit Britain/Visit England Discover England Fund, we have been targeting the US travel market and in particular the many Americans who are fascinated by the UK's religious history and buildings...allowing churches to benefit from the tourist pound is a key way of securing their future'.
Andrew Stokes, England Director for Visit England said:
'This is an increasingly popular segment of the tourism market and we have an opportunity with England's unrivalled assets in this area to offer visitors activities that give them a heightened sense of local culture and a greater feeling of connection and belonging'