John E. Vigar MA, FSA Scot., FRSA

Churches in Retirement

What happens to Anglican churches when they are no longer needed for their original purpose? Some are demolished; others are converted to houses, offices or shops. Yet there are a few that are so precious that none of these solutions is deemed suitable.

Fifty years ago they would have been shut up and left to decay. The same might be true today had not a charity, The Friends of Friendless Churches, been established in 1957. It hoped struggling churches to keep their doors open and lobbied Parliament to establish a mechanism whereby important buildings could be saved. This led to the establishment of The Churches Conservation Trust in 1969.

Today more than 400 churches in England and Wales are cared for by these two bodies – preserved for today and for future generations. They may not be used for worship but they are still very much community buildings.

John Vigar is a Trustee of The Friends of Friendless Churches, which is now the government body for redundant churches in Wales. Until his retirement he worked for The Churches Conservation Trust in England, which makes him the ideal speaker on the subject.

The lecture looks at many of these churches, exploring their unique architecture and history and explaining how and why they were saved for the nation.

Suggested reading:

England’s Thousand Best Churches by Simon Jenkins (2000)

The Church Explorer’s Handbook by Clive Fewins (2004)

Saving Churches by Matthew Saunders 2010

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