On Saturday 11th June, East Yorkshire Historic Churches ran a successful workshop at Hornsea Village Hall on why you should keep your church open, and how you can protect your building and any valuables in it. The workshop was a stimulating mixture of a film and short talks from live speakers.
The workshop was run with the assistance of the Open Churches Trust, which is committed to encouraging people to open up their churches and keeping them open. You can read more about the Open Churches Trust below.
- The Trust was founded by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and his father-in-law, Brigadier Gurdon spoke with understanding of the plight of small rural churches.
- A representative of EIG, which is the insurer for most churches, explained that keeping a church open is a better way of protecting a church and its valuables than locking it up.
- If a would-be burglar, or vandal, knows that there will or may be people visiting the church, he knows he may be disturbed.
That may well be a deterrent. Sometimes insurance premiums are lower now for churches which are kept open than if they are kept locked.
- It is always possible to lock valuables away in the vestry.
- Another speaker explained how to tag valuables, and how to set up appropriate alarms . He pointed out that CCTV is expensive and only really works if someone is able to keep watch all the time, which is hardly practicable for most churches. It is virtually impossible to identify a burglar or vandal from CCTV.
- And if you lock up your church, you are depriving the whole community of access to its heritage, and from all the interest and enjoyment that comes from it and learning about it.
- Yet another told us of the immense benefits St. Alphege, Greenwich, and the local community, had obtained from opening up their church.
So don't lock up your churches......
This is what Andrew Lloyd Webber had to say about keeping churches open:
"Britain's churches are one of the country's unsung assets. Many are not only architectural treasures, but contain objects any museum would be proud to display. Yet because of vandalism and theft, many churches are locked. I founded this Trust to help keep these treasures open.'
When I was a boy I developed two passions: one was for music and the other was for art and architecture. I was brought up in central London and I was able to develop my interest in architecture through my visits to churches. Many of them were in the inner city and they led to my love of Victorian art. All over the country it was possible to visit important churches. Now, sadly, many of them are closed and some of them are closed all the time.
Sir Nikolaus Pevsner observed, towards the end of his extraordinary work in documenting 'The Buildings of England', that his achievement was rendered virtually useless if the practice of locking churches was to persist. Two decades after he made this observation, the situation is worse.
No one has really discovered a wholly satisfactory way of taking a place of worship out of use and so our towns and countryside are blessed with a huge number of wonderful buildings, mostly still used for their original purpose but increasingly a terrible financial burden on the minute congregations who use them.
This Trust hopes to be able to help the congregations of the finest of these buildings to open them so the public can enjoy not only their beauty and structure but also the often unique history each can extol.
Obviously this is not something to be undertaken in the long-term by any one person, but in a small way I am hoping that my action will encourage others to become involved with the Open Churches Trust. It is vital because the public, at the moment, is denied access to buildings of enormous artistic importance.
I am glad to say that, during the ten years of the life of the Trust, attitudes have changed and a great number more churches are now open. The trust now has many institutions throughout the country continuing and expanding its work and the majority of Anglican Dioceses now have Church Tourism Officers.
The churches described herein continue in the long process of giving the public a chance to see and learn about this important part of our national heritage." - ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER