Outreach to Ownership: ‘Bridging the Gap’ Pilot Research Project

12 Oct 2022

Communities have an increasingly important role to play in taking ownership of and / or managing their historic places of worship, particularly as many faith organisations across the UK are seeking more viable uses / co-uses for historic places of worship, which in some cases involves the disposal of surplus buildings. Whilst there are resources available to support community groups in this process, it can still be very challenging. Evidence from the Taylor Review Pilot, also carried out by the CCT Regeneration Team, suggests that community rescues of historic churches in rural areas can be more problematic, as sparse populations and aging demographics can make it difficult to recruit sufficient volunteers.

Bridging the Gap was a pilot research project carried out by the CCT Regeneration Team, Historic Churches Scotland, Heritage Trust Network and Churches Trust for Cumbria. It formed part of a wider research initiative called ‘Outreach to Ownership’, which was a cross border pilot programme exploring innovative approaches to inclusive community engagement across cultural sector organisations in England and Scotland. The programme was managed by Historic England and Historic England Scotland and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Between January and August 2022, the project team worked with community groups in northern England and southern Scotland to explore the barriers that they were facing as they tried to secure a sustainable future for their church buildings. The research included online surveys, and online and in person workshops, giving participants a valuable opportunity to network with each other and sectoral partners, share ideas, hear case studies, and explore the resources available. The resulting report explores the barriers that communities are facing and how they can be overcome, making recommendations for the sector and further research.


Image Credit: Allison Burke