Major Parish Churches represent some of the most significant and well-loved places of worship in England. The Church Buildings Council (CBC) has identified 300 such churches across the country, which provided a “basket” from which case studies were chosen for the research project (see below).
These are exceptionally significant parish church buildings with a different scale of opportunities and challenges compared to the vast majority of the 12,267 listed Church of England church buildings.
A Major Parish Church has, in the opinion of the CBC, all or most of the following characteristics, whereby
possessing one of the first two means automatic recognition:
- exceptional significance and/or issues necessitating a Conservation Management Plan;
- physically very big (over 1000m2 footprint – check the Church Heritage Record);
- Grade I, II* or (exceptionally) II listed;
- are usually open to visitors daily, or strive for this;
- have a role or roles beyond those of a typical parish church;
- make a considerable civic, cultural and economic contribution to their communities.
Inclusion on the list means simply that the CBC recognises a Major Parish Church as such and will offer the parish and
diocese individual advice and support; any significance attached to inclusion on the list by other organisations or individuals is a matter for them.
The CBC advises that all such churches by definition would benefit from a Conservation Management Plan (CMP), and will work to help them achieve this; any parish bidding for this status must be prepared to work with the CBC in this regard if no CMP is in place. See the CBC guidance on CMPs, which also gives a more detailed description of its criteria for Major Parish Churches.
The Major Parish Churches research project
The project partners – Historic England, Heritage Lottery Fund, the Greater Churches Network, the Church Buildings Council and Doncaster Minster (which initiated the project) – wanted to understand the potential and issues of Major
Parish Churches. This project has investigated the public perception of these buildings, their physical condition and the resources available to maintain, repair, manage and sustain them.
This research, funded by Historic England, provides a robust baseline of evidence based on a sample of Major Parish Churches from across the country. The research report was published in October 2016 and can be accessed from the Historic England website.