Quinquennial Reports

Giles Quarme


WILLIAM MORRIS, when founding the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings in 1877, urged 'Staving off decay by daily care'. Even before then, the Church of England may be said to have given a lead to other guardians of historic buildings by pioneering a system of regular inspection by a suitably qualified architect. In the 19th Century the Church of England established the principle of regular inspection of Parsonage House which was ultimately developed and regularised into The Inspection of Churches Measure, 1955, which extended this principle to provide as follows:

Every scheme:
a shall provide for the establishment of a fund by means of contributions from parochial, diocesan or other sources;
b shall provide for the payment out of such fund or otherwise for the cost of the inspection of churches in the diocese;
c shall provide for the appointment of an architect or architects approved by the Advisory Committee to inspect the churches in the diocese and to make a report on every church inspected;
d shall provide, in the case of every church inspected, for a copy of the report so made to he sent to the Archdeacon of the Archdeaconry and to the parochial church council of the parish in which the church is situated; and
e may contain other provisions not inconsistent with this measure as the Dioceson Conference shall think fit.


Caring for churches is a specialist field. It involves many aspects of professional knowledge; the liturgist, archaeologist, architect with special skills in repair and conservation, art historian, archivist, conservator, artist and antiquary all have a place in the overall picture. In addition, the role of the local PCC and the incumbent with their professional advice is fundamental to the welfare and safeguarding of the churches and chapels covered by the Measure. The fact that so many of our churches survived the Middle Ages (approximately 8,000 out of 17,000 chapels and churches in England) is, however, due to the care and responsibility of succeeding generations of parishioners, incumbents and professionals. It must always he remembered that 'we are all no more than life tenants of our heritage and we hove a moral duty to pass it on in as good a condition as that in which we received it'.

A report should he produced of five-yearly intervals which identifies records and comments on the following
(i) Repair work or any new work carried out since the lost inspection.
(ii) The general condition of the fabric.
(iii) The detailed condition of the fabric, such as structural walls, roof covering, fittings, services, monuments, and the churchyard.
(iv) Works of repair in order of priority.
(v) Recommendations on the maintenance and core of buildings and their contents.
(vi) Recommendations on further detailed investigation.
Perhaps the most significant part of any quinquennial report is the section dealing with works of repair in order of priority. The works identified in this section are categorised us follows:
(i) Of utmost urgency.
(ii) Essential within the next 18 months.
(iii) Essential Within the quinquennium.
(iv) Desirable.


The architect, when producing his report will have had the benefit of a detailed record stretching over many years which will record the fundamental problems inherent in the original design of the church that cause difficulties with its maintenance. With this advantage of hindsight many mistakes con be avoided and considerable time saved by the architect not having to 're-invent the wheel'.

However, a word of caution should he introduced in that, if the newly appointed architect is over-dependent on previous analysis of a recurring problem, he may find himself repeating his predecessor's mis-diagnosis.

Some of the works of repair or alteration may involve disturbing important archaeological remains. It is often forgotten that, the diocese has, at its disposal a diocesan archaeological consultant who is available to assist and advise the architect on his proposed works. It is not uncommon to find mediaeval wall paintings hidden under numerous coats of whitewash when damp proofing or new decoration schemes are taking place.

The quinquennial system of regular survey, combined with continuous maintenance, has ensured the survival of a unique collection of historic places of worship that in some cases, even date back to the Anglo Saxon period. Repairing and restoring Historic buildings is an extremely expensive operation. When major projects occur, they place immense financial burdens on the parish, incumbent and PCC. A 'stitch in time' is a truism that has been shown to work 'miracles' in the past and, if applied with the some care in the future, will guarantee these places of worship for the 21st century.



This article is reproduced fromThe Conservation and Repair of Ecclesiastical Buildings, 1994


GILES QUARME, Chartered Architect, London

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