Appeal to save heritage craft skills

24 Jun 2021

The Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) today launches an appeal to help save traditional heritage craft skills, which are at risk of being lost forever.

The shortfall in traditional skills and an ageing workforce throughout England has been known in the heritage sector for some time. According to a recent report from The Heritage Crafts Association, the crafts fall into different categories of endangerment.

Some of the crafts on the ‘endangered’ list include flintknapping, certain types of thatching and lead-working.

CCT is the national charity that cares for historic churches at risk across England. The 356 churches in its care are unique and all rely on specialist craftspeople and traditional skills for their upkeep.

Peter Aiers, Chief Executive, CCT says: We need to act now, as there is a real risk that these skills could be lost forever. To keep our historic buildings, and particularly our historic church buildings, in good repair there needs to be a trained and skilled workforce. We think it is vital that our work is able to continue to support apprentices, and these apprentices in turn will ensure that our churches, and other historic buildings, benefit from sensitive and appropriate repairs well into the future, to inspire the next generation.” 

In the past few months, through a grant from the Government’s Heritage Stimulus Fund, CCT has employed more than 70 firms of local heritage contractors and subcontractors. This has resulted in direct and indirect employment to over 300 trades and craftspeople around the country.

Specific examples of this recent work include flint-knapping, which was carried out at St Mary’s Church, Bungay, Suffolk by local specialists R & J Hogg. Flint-knapping is the shaping of flint, specifically for masonry purposes, such as for building or facing walls. St Mary’s is a landmark for miles around and the focal point of the market town of Bungay. The 15th century tower, with its tall pinnacles and the intricate stone tracery of the west window, desperately needed these urgent repairs.

Work was also recently carried out at CCT’s church of St Margaret’s in the village of Hales, Norfolk by local Thatcher, Gary Stokes, who specialises in Norfolk reed thatch. All materials are sourced locally, and the methods and tools used have hardly changed over hundreds of years. Thanks to this work, the distinctive round tower and roofline of this medieval building are once again complete and the church is able to welcome visitors.

CCT is appealing for donations to its Craft Skills Appeal, which will help in the training of apprentices, supporting the livelihood of talented craftsmen and women, and in the continuation of this expertise and specialist traditional knowledge. Find out more here: