Exploring community ownership of churches with ‘Bridging the Gap’

‘Bridging the Gap’ is a pilot research project established by The Churches Conservation Trust (CCT), Historic Churches Scotland (HCS), Heritage Trust Network (HTN) and Churches Trust for Cumbria (CTfC). The partners are working with community groups in rural areas in southern Scotland and northern England, to explore the barriers surrounding sustainable community ownership of churches.

Communities have an increasingly important role to play in taking ownership of, and/or managing, their historic places of worship. With many faith organisations across the UK looking to sell surplus buildings in the coming years, if they have not started already. There are multiple resources available to support community groups in this process but it is often challenging and can take years to find sustainable uses for the building. Evidence from the Taylor Review Pilot and events carried out by HCS and HTN in Scotland, suggest that community rescues of such buildings in rural areas may be more problematic, as sparse populations and aging demographics can make it difficult to recruit sufficient volunteers. Whilst there are successful examples of best practice, the issue is under-researched and there are still opportunities to learn from this best practice.

As part of this research project, the partners will host up to four workshops for community groups and sector stakeholders to take part in. Giving them the opportunity to network, share ideas, hear case studies and explore resources available. The resulting report will look at the barriers groups are facing and how they can be overcome, it will likely suggest that a more in-depth study of this area would be beneficial.

This project is part of a wider research initiative called ‘Outreach to Ownership’. It is a cross-border pilot programme exploring innovative approaches to inclusive community engagement across culture sector organisations in Scotland and England. Running for 9 months, until September 2022, the programme is managed in partnership by Historic England and Historic Environment Scotland, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and advised by the AHRC’s Independent Research Organisation Consortium.

If you would like to take part in Bridging the Gap or find out more, please contact Sarah via sarah.pearce@heritagetrustnetwork.org.uk

Find out more about the partners:

The Churches Conservation Trust (CCT)

Historic Churches Scotland (HCS)

Heritage Trust Network (HTN)

Churches Trust for Cumbria (CTfC)

Image credit: Churches Conservation Trust

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