Places of worship embody a unique combination of architectural, historical, social and spiritual significance; of tangible and intangible values. This makes their conservation important and at the same time challenging.
Approximately 14,500 places of worship in England are designated as listed buildings. What is more, the majority of listed places of worship are in the higher grades - I and II* - and over a quarter are listed grade I. Of all the grade I listed buildings of all types, 45% are places of worship. This is a reflection of the remarkable survival of ecclesiastical heritage and the high value that society places on it.
Management of change for most listed places of worship is undertaken by the denominations themselves under an arrangement known as the Ecclesiastical Exemption. English Heritage acts as a consultee within the processes of each denomination for the authorisation of works affecting the character of a church or chapel as a place of special archaeological, architectural, artistic or historic interest. We also advise local authorities in the normal way on proposed works to places of worship outside the exemption.
English Heritage works at a national level with the denominations, faith groups and other groups involved in the use, management or conservation of places of worship, to promote good conservation practice and improve our understanding of the concerns and needs of the building owners.