The fourteenth instalment as part of an ongoing series for Haunt Manchester by Dr Peter N. Lindfield FSA, exploring Greater Manchester’s Gothic architecture and hidden heritage. Peter’s previous Haunt Manchester articles include features on Ordsall HallAlbert’s Schloss and Albert Hall, the Mancunian Gothic Sunday School of St Matthew’sArlington House in Salford, Manchester’s Modern Gothic in St Peter’s Square, what was St John’s ChurchManchester CathedralThe Great Hall at The University of Manchester, and more. From the city’s striking Gothic features to the more unusual aspects of buildings usually taken for granted and history hidden in plain sight, a variety of locations will be explored and visited over the course of 2020. In this article he reflects on the importance of preserving Gothic and heritage buildings, and considers the Taylor Review Pilot Scheme, which was established to help re-open church buildings and supported 27 sites in Greater Manchester from September 2018 until March 2020. Please note that, at the time of writing, all buildings mentioned below are currently temporarily closed to the public, due to Covid-19 measures (30/04/2020).

Image below - All Saints Church, Barton Upon Irwell, Redclyffe Road, Urmston, Stretford, Manchester, Greater Manchester. Exterior of church and adjacent residence, view from South showing frosted landscaped garden and sun dial. Copyright Historic England.

All Saints Church  Dr Peter N. Lindfield FSA is a Senior Research Associate in the Departments of English and History at Manchester Metropolitan University. He has published widely on Georgian Gothic architecture and design broadly conceived, as well as heraldry and the relevance of heraldic arts to post-medieval English intellectual, cultural, and aesthetic culture. Last year, as part of Gothic Manchester Festival 2019, he co-organised an event at Chetham’s Library Baronial Hall with Professor Dale Townshend titled ‘Faking Gothic Furniture’ (it also features, along with The John Rylands Library, in a previous article by Peter, here). This involved discussing the mysterious George Shaw (1810-76), a local Upper Mill lad who developed an early interest in medieval architecture and heraldry, going on to create forgeries of Tudor and Elizabethan furniture for a number of high-profile individuals and places at the time, including Chetham’s!

Currently Peter is completing his Leverhulme-funded research project exploring forged antiquarian materials in Georgian Britain, and also working on the recently re-discovered Henry VII and Elizabeth of York marriage bed, which itself was the inspiration behind many of Shaw’s so-called ‘Gothic forgeries’.

The Real Cost of Heritage: Preserving our Gothic Buildings

We are all aware of how much it costs to heat, light, and maintain or repair our home, be it anything from a flat through to a detached house to a massive country pile. If we think our domestic heating and maintenance bills are high, the cost of running and maintaining, let alone repairing, historic buildings is almost unfathomably large.

Fig 1

Above - Fig.1: Manchester Cathedral. View from the choir through to the nave. © Peter N. Lindfield.

Most churches in Britain are free to enter and they rely upon donations to help maintain them. Manchester Cathedral (Fig.1), for example, costs over £1 million a year to maintain and keep it open to the public, see here, and entry is for a recommended voluntary donation.

Below - Fig.2: Canterbury Cathedral. View of the vault in the Crossing Tower. © Peter N. Lindfield.

Fig 2

Canterbury Cathedral in Kent (Fig.2) requires around £19,000 a day to keep running, see here—that is a staggering annual figure of nearly £10 million!

Below - Fig.3: Frederick Henry Evans, Westminster Abbey, no.18, platinum print, 1911. RPS.3682-2018. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Fig 3

In an effort to cover their operating costs and control the number of visitors, some cathedrals and heritage sites that are major tourist attractions have decided to implement entrance fees, including Westminster Abbey (Fig.3) in central London that charges £24 per adult ticket if purchased on the day, though there are arrangements for people attending worship and for parishioners who live in London to gain admission without charge to the Abbey itself. (Please note however, at the time of writing, Westminster Abbey is currently temporarily closed to the public, in terms of Covid-19 guidance)

Below - Fig.4: Benjamin Sir Stone, Palace of Westminster, platinum print mounted on card with hand-written ink notation. E.3764-2000. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Fig 4

On a wholly different scale is the restoration and refurbishment of the Palace of Westminster, commonly known as the Houses of Parliament (Fig.4). Largely built after the devastating fire of 1834, this Grade I listed seat of government is in desperate need of restoration. The budget for completing this more than decade-long project is currently set at £4 billion!—see here. A video about the restoration programme is available here.

Not all heritage sites have the tourist footfall and attraction as Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey (the current COVID-19 outbreak excepted) to operate and undertake capital projects of restoration or refurbishment.

This is where other schemes to support British architectural heritage comes into play. One particular success story is the Taylor Review Pilot Scheme. Funded by the UK Government Department of Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS), and run by Historic England, the £1.8 million Pilot Scheme was open to places of worship (of any faith) in Greater Manchester and Suffolk (see here), starting in 2018 and running until March 2020. This meant that churches in the region perhaps struggling to maintain their historic buildings could crucially benefit. After all, as recorded in the Interim Evaluation of the Taylor Review Pilot here, the number of listed places of worship at the time in Greater Manchester was 331, with the level of those on the Heritage at Risk register standing at 20%. In turn, a number of buildings across the boroughs including Salford, Bolton and Trafford applied and successfully became involved. Following on from the scheme coming to an end on 31 March 2020, a full evaluation will be published later this summer.

What was required to apply to enter the scheme? Further requirements for each site stipulate that it had to be:

  • An active place of worship open for public worship at least six times a year
  • Listed on the National Heritage List for England (any grade)
  • Open (or willing to open) for some form of public access in addition to regular worship times (special considerations potentially given for buildings with security issues or where there are clear health and safety concerns)

With access to experts on maintenance and repair plans, as well as being able to apply for minor repair grants, the scheme supported 27 sites in Greater Manchester. Sites to benefit from this scheme included Monton Unitarian Church in Salford and St Paul’s in Halliwell, Bolton.

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Above - Fig.5: Monton Unitarian Chapel, Monton Green, Eccles, Monton, Greater Manchester. General view from South. Copyright Historic England. 

The grade II* listed Monton Unitarian Church in Salford (Fig.5) benefitted from the scheme by securing a grant to help cover the cost of repairs, including a restoration of the Philomena stained glass window. The church is also working with the team on a five-year maintenance and community engagement plan.

Reverend Anna Jarvis, Monton Unitarian Church, Salford said that:

"The workshops that the Taylor Review Pilot has been running have been absolutely invaluable – we have learnt about repair and maintenance issues, community engagement and good governance structures. We are currently converting to a CIO and so the governance workshop gave us a lot of guidance. And Historic England have been brilliant—brimming over with advice, support and enthusiasm—we can't thank them enough."

The grade II listed St Paul’s in Halliwell, Bolton (Fig.6), used funds from the pilot scheme to replace missing roof slates and repair stone copings. The church café was also turned into a ‘Place of Welcome’, helping to create a place for activities and programmes to engage the local community.

Below - Fig.6: St Paul's Church, Halliwell Road, Halliwell, Bolton, Greater Mancherster. General view of exterior from South. Copyright Historic England.

Fig 6

Mandy Rushton, Church Warden at St Paul’s Church, Halliwell, referring to the project, said that:

"The grant has enabled us to complete urgent repairs, make our church watertight and preserve it for future generations. These works would not have been addressed without the pilot scheme and we can now plan the next stage of our maintenance work. The team at Historic England are very knowledgeable and have been friendly and enthusiastic."

Referring to the scheme, the Heritage Minister, Helen Whately, said that:

"I am delighted that so many buildings in Greater Manchester have benefitted from this funding. Our country has a rich and fascinating religious history and places of worship have been at the heart of communities for centuries. The Taylor Review pilot scheme is helping to protect and preserve these important places of worship and keep them central to our communities."

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, also reflects:

"We are delighted that the Taylor Review Pilot has successfully repaired and restored 54 listed faith buildings in its inaugural year. We look forward to continuing to work with local communities nationwide to help maintain some of our most important places of worship."

Through this scheme, the futures of a number of Manchester’s historic places of worship, in need of access to expert consultation and funds to undertake repairs, has been received well and helped secure their futures.

A report of the scheme can be found here.

By Dr Peter N. Lindfield 

Photo credits in the captions