On 19th April, the Patrimony Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans, MP hosted an event to celebrate the completion, between 2020 and 2022, of 39 projects of repair to Grade I and Grade II* historic Catholic churches throughout England.
These projects were grant-funded by the Bishops’ Conference thanks to a £6.6m allocation from Historic England’s ‘Heritage Stimulus Fund’ – part of the government’s Culture Recovery Fund.
The event was attended by the Heritage Minister, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, and the Chief Executive of Historic England, Duncan Wilson OBE, both of whom spoke warmly about the success of the grants programme, congratulating all those involved.
A new booklet from the Patrimony Committee, entitled ‘Living Stones: A Celebration of Achievement’, was distributed to attendees.
The publication illustrates all 39 buildings supported with grants and makes the case for the need for a dedicated grants scheme for the repair of historic churches going forward – a point reiterated by the Most Reverend George Stack, Archbishop Emeritus of Cardiff and Chair of the Patrimony Committee.
Archbishop Stack said: “The heritage of Catholic churches in this country is not as well-known as it deserves to be, yet it is a wonderfully rich and varied heritage as the range of projects illustrated in this booklet demonstrate.”
He added: “Particular thanks go to the Government and to Historic England for making this funding available as part of the Culture Recovery Fund in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Following the Archbishop, the Chief Executive of Historic England, Duncan Wilson said: “The Heritage Stimulus Fund gave a great boost to volunteer morale, and provided very welcome local employment, and these churches are now much better able to deliver the social, pastoral, and practical support that people needed during the pandemic and continue to today in facing new challenges.
“The fact that the Catholic Church was ready and able to respond to the emergency funding offer is a tribute to over a decade of partnership with Historic England and the Catholic dioceses.”
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, Minister for Arts and Heritage, also spoke saying: “It’s a real pleasure to hear about the different projects being supported through government funding, brilliantly delivered through our arm’s length bodies, including Historic England, to help communities across the country in those challenging times.”
He added: “As Minister for Heritage I have the privilege of working with listed places of worship of all religions and all denominations, and making sure that all of them which make up the rich fabric of this nation and our shared heritage are being looked after and shared for future generations. Catholic churches are a hugely important part of that heritage.”
The event was attended by more than 50 people including a number of Parliamentarians and others involved in the field of historic churches and their conservation.