St Lawrence Church, Snarford, Lincolnshire

The Churches Conservation Trust is a charity that looks after over 340 historic churches around England. The Trust was born in 1968 by an act of the Church of England, approved by Parliament, entitled The Pastoral Measure: Ecclesiastical law. Under this law, churches of exceptional historic, architectural or archaeological significance that are no longer needed for worship (often because of changing population patterns and/or shrinking population of regular worshippers) are vested in the Trust. In plain English that means that the Trust looks after them and often carries out much needed restoration work.

The Trust looks after buildings that would otherwise be forced to close (in some cases the buildings are faced with becoming derelict or being demolished). These rescued churches are open without admission charge to the public at large, and in total, over 1.5 million people visit CCT churches each year. All churches in Trust care are listed buildings, and a large number of them are Grade I listed. A few are listed as Scheduled Ancient Monuments, the highest level of category for historic buildings of great age and architectural interest. The Trust also works with local communities to ensure that these wonderful old buildings stay at the heart the community and are not simply tourist attractions.

It is worth pointing out that, though the CCT churches are redundant (that is, not used for regular worship) they remain consecrated buildings. Many are still used for church services on special occasions or on specific days during the year.

Editor's note:

I love visiting CCT churches; they are some of the most moving, and most historically interesting historic buildings in Britain. The fact that the Trust does not embellish the fittings, or attempt to 'restore' the interiors, adds to the charm and to the historic realism of the interiors. In most cases the buildings give off a sense of age and an ambience of history that you don't get in a more 'lived in' building. Many of the churches are bare of pews and other normal fittings, allowing you to really experience the 'bones' of the building and get a good view of the superb medieval architecture. Visiting a new Churches Conservation Trust church is like opening a present on Christmas morning.

Membership:

Because the Trust is a charity it relies on donations from the public to continue its work. Donations can be made online on a one-off basis or by becoming a full time Supporter. Supporters pay an annual membership fee on a per-person basis or at a discounted rate for two people in the same household. Supporters receive a welcome pack of information, a twice-yearly newsletter, a copy of the Trust's annual review,and discounted entry to other heritage attractions. The best feature of becoming a Supporter is that you will be able to attend a special series of Hospitality Days - a day out with other members where you will visit an historic property and get a chance to go behind the scenes to see features normally restricted to visitors, and enjoy a group lunch. Past Hospitality Days have included visits to Harewood House and church in Yorkshire, and a visit to Rochester Cathedral combined with side trips to St Mary's, Higham, and St James's, Cooling. Each trip offers expert talks and a look at the work of the Trust to preserve and restore the churches in their care.

Of course you can attend events sponsored by the Trust even if you are not a Supporter - for a current listing see the official list of Churches Conservation Trust Events

In addition to contributing by becoming a member, the public can take a hand in the Trust's work by becoming a volunteer. Over 1000 people volunteer each year to assist the CCT, through activties like cleaning and churchyard maintenance, giving guided tours to visitors, hosting school visits and educational workshops, researching historic material for guidebooks, and assisting in the myriad of administrative duties that any large organisation requires.

Our Top 5 CCT churches:

  1. Snarford, Lincolnshire
  2. Duxford, Cambridgeshire
  3. Eastleach Martin, Gloucestershire
  4. Holme Lacy, Herefordshire
  5. Michaelchurch, Herefordshire

Note: our picks are from among ONLY the churches we have personally visited. There are a lot of other wonderful CCT churches out there!


Contact information (current at time of publication)

Churches Conservation Trust
1 West Smithfield
London EC1A 9EE

Tel 020 7213 0660 (9.00am – 5.00pm Monday to Friday)
Fax: 020 7213 0678
Email: central@tcct.org.uk
Web: http://www.visitchurches.org.uk

Other heritage organisation that may be of interest:

Cadw
English Heritage
Historic Houses Association
Historic Scotland
National Trust
National Trust for Scotland