Historic churches awarded $670K in grants amid financial losses due to COVID-19 lockdowns

St. Mary's Church at Woburn in southern England, May 15, 2015.
St. Mary's Church at Woburn in southern England, May 15, 2015. | Reuters/Toby Melville

Forty-five historic churches and chapels in the U.K. that have been hit hard financially due to COVID-19 lockdowns are receiving hundreds of thousands of pounds from the National Churches Trust.

The charity says that the novel coronavirus has detrimentally affected the finances of churches, with many not being able to raise funds from parishioners, visitors, or from building rentals. The grant money will fund needed repairs and maintenance and the installation of community facilities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“The U.K.'s historic churches and chapels are a vital part of our national heritage. During the coronavirus pandemic churches have done so much to help vulnerable local people and boost morale,” said BBC broadcaster and journalist Huw Edwards, who's also the vice president of The National Churches Trust.

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“Many churches need to carry out urgent repairs and install modern facilities to ensure their buildings can continue to be used well into the future. But the cost of this work is often far beyond what most congregations can pay for themselves and many are facing funding shortages because of the coronavirus lockdown.”

The latest round of funding comes after grants were distributed earlier this year. Thus far, the National Churches Trust has awarded or recommended 145 grants totaling more than £1 million.

According to its website, the National Churches Trust offers four types of grants, from Cornerstone Grants that fund essential structural repair projects and install kitchens and toilets, to preventative maintenance and micro-grants that support the cost of maintenance services.

Among the churches receiving grant funding is St. Mary’s Church in Dallinghoo, a church dating back to the 14th century. As part of the National Churches Trust's £507,000 ($670,000) payout, the historic building will be made watertight.

The funded work on St. Mary's includes extensive repairs to the gutters, masonry, brickwork, and windows of the church, and refurbishing tower stair treads, timber windows, ceilings, and pew platforms in the churches interior, the East Anglican Daily Times reports. 

“Key members of our community have been fundraising for years to keep our church fabric sound," Charlotte Sullivan, churchwarden at St Mary’s, told the news outlet.

The Edale Methodist Chapel in Barber Booth, which was first built in 1811 and is still in use today, is receiving a cornerstone grant from the National Churches Trust.

"We badly need to get basic facilities — water, heating, toilet and kitchen installed, so that we can bring this lovely atmospheric chapel into wider community use," Kate Burnett, renovation coordinator at the church, told the Buxton Advertiser.

"Particularly in these difficult Covid times, people need special places to drop in to spend structured or informal, shared or private time to rest, celebrate and maybe mourn."

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