Celebrating 50 years since we took on caring for our first church

Edlington: our first vesting

Image of St Peter's Edlington without a roof
St Peter's shown roofless when it was vested into our care

Fifty years ago today, our first church of St Peter’s Edlington was vested with CCT.

St Peter's sits in the coalfields of South Yorkshire and came into our care in 1971. By that time, the church had had its roof and windows removed in an attempt to turn it into a ruin. St Peter's is a Grade I listed medieval church in a disadvantaged area with few other historic or community buildings. Since vesting, it has become a valued community and arts building, regularly used by local schools and colleges.

The church dates from the late twelfth century and contains several masterpieces of curious Norman carving - including a chancel arch decorated with several rows of chevrons. The upper stage of the tower and the north chapel are of the later Middle Ages.

Carved Chancel Arch at Edlington
The Norman chancel arch

The history of CCT Our historic churches are vested in us by the Church Commissioners of the Church of England, repairing the damage from sometimes years of neglect, and working with local communities to bring them alive again. Our vision is for historic churches to be enjoyed by everyone as places of heritage, culture, spirituality and beauty and for the significant contribution they make to communities, society and the economy.

We operate the third largest heritage estate in charitable ownership in the UK. All of the churches in the collection are listed, mostly Grade I and II*, and some are Scheduled Ancient Monuments. Our churches attract almost 2 million visitors a year and this unique collection includes irreplaceable examples of architecture, archaeology and art from 1,000 years of history.

A challenging time for historic churches

Church being demolished in the 1960's
© Warwickshire county record office Church being demolished in the 1960's

The 1960s were a challenging time for historic churches, with such buildings sometimes seen as an impediment to progress rather than a benefit to society, and many falling into disrepair and threatened with demolition. No formal mechanism existed for caring for churches where parishes felt they could no longer afford to keep going. If it hadn't been for the commitment of local communities and national campaigners such as Ivor Bulmer-Thomas, many of these historic churches might have been lost forever.

The Churches Conservation Trust was originally established in 1969 as the Redundant Churches Fund, a unique partnership of church, state and charity which was the result of tireless campaigning by a pioneering group of 1960s church heritage enthusiasts. The Trust came into being via the Church of England's Pastoral Measure of 1968, approved via Parliament, including by the Redundant Churches and Other Religious Buildings Act 1969, which was meant to “authorize the making of grants to the redundant Churches Fund [and] exclude…the demolition of redundant places of public worship”.

We owe a significant debt to our first Chairman, Ivor Bulmer-Thomas (Chairman 1969-1976), a former Member of Parliament, journalist and Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation who had already been instrumental in the establishment of CCT’s sister charity 'The Friends of Friendless Churches' in 1957 before he decided to throw his weight behind the establishment of the Redundant Churches Fund.

In 1994, we were renamed The Churches Conservation Trust, and today we look after 356 historic churches and continue to take on more each year.

St Peter's Church Edlington
St Peter's as it is today