National Churches Trust launches appeal to save the UK’s crumbling church spires

St Mary, St Peter and St Paul, Westbury-upon-Severn, Gloucestershire
St Mary, St Peter and St Paul, Westbury-upon-Severn, Gloucestershire

A ‘Save our Spires’ appeal is being launched by the National Churches Trust today, Thursday 23 July 2015, to highlight the plight of crumbling church spires around the UK, many of which are in need of urgent repair.

An analysis by the National Churches Trust of Historic England’s latest ‘Heritage At Risk Register’ shows that 40 listed parish churches require urgent repair work to their spires. (A full list of the churches is attached.)

Damage to parish church spires includes:

  • Stone decay and deterioration
  • Rusting to iron cramps used in Victorian spires to hold masonry together
  • Woodpecker damage to wooden spires
  • High winds and heavy rain leading to weakened spires

Over the last three years, the National Churches Trust has helped fund repairs to 17 parish church spires in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, investing over £370,000 in their future.

Now the Trust is seeking to raise at least a further £250,000 to help fund repairs to more parish church spires and ensure that these key architectural features continue to grace villages, towns and cities throughout the UK. The Trust is also urging people to support churches fundraising to repair spires as the cost of this work is far beyond the ability of most congregations to pay for. (The ‘Save our Spires’ appeal only involves parish churches as the National Churches Trust does not fund Cathedral buildings.)

Repairs to church spires are expensive, partly due to the costs of erecting scaffolding and the specialist work required by stonemasons and structural engineers.  The height and inaccessibility of spires also means churches have difficulty monitoring their condition and cannot undertake any regular preventative maintenance.

Claire Walker, CEO of the National Churches Trust said:

“Soaring high above their surroundings, church spires were often built as an attempt to get as close to Heaven as possible. Sadly, these days many are in danger of going in the other direction.”

“Church spires are a key feature of the UK’s landscape. It’s no surprise that many people’s favourite churches have spires, including Joanna Lumley OBE, whose favourite church is St Bride’s in the City of London, the inspiration for tiered wedding cakes, (http://www.favouritechurches.org.uk/joanna-lumley) and Michael Palin, one of whose favourite churches is St John’s Church in Ranmoor (http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2015/22-may/features/features/michael-palin-my-seven-of-the-best)  which has the tallest spire in Sheffield.”

“Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, in the last three years we have been able to help fund repairs to 17 spires in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.”

“Now, through our ‘Save our Spires’ appeal, we want to be able to continue to work with congregations and other funders to help repair more of the UK’s church spires. I also hope that in cities, towns and villages where spires are at risk, people of all faiths and none will support the fundraising efforts of local churches seeking to repair these amazing architectural achievements so that they can be enjoyed by our children and children’s children.”

“Great spires are important historical landmarks”

In a film about church spires, produced by the National Churches Trust and includes a case study of the crumbling spire of Christ Church, Highbury, London, Diana Evans, Head of Places of Worship Advice at Historic England, says: “Local congregations try to keep their spires in good condition but many congregations simply don’t have enough money to keep their spires up.” .” In the film, John Goodall, Architecture Editor of Country Life says: “Great spires are important historical landmarks and we ought to be preserving them.”

The film can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/nationalchurchestrust/sos

‘Save our Spires’ Photography Competition

To allow people to show why spires are such an important part of the UK’s landscape, the National Churches Trust is holding a ‘Save our Spires’ photography competition. The winner will share a £250 cash prize with their photographed church.

Photos can be uploaded to the National Churches Trust website at (www.nationalchurchestrust.org/spires) to the National Churches Trust Facebook page (www.facebook.com/nationalchurchestrust)  or to the National Churches Trust via Twitter @NatChurchTrust using the hashtag #saveourspires

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