Historic Churches 2019

BCD SPECIAL REPORT ON HISTORIC CHURCHES 26 TH ANNUAL EDITION 11 INTANGIBLE HERITAGE Charlotte Dodgeon O VER THE last decade or so it has become more common for decision-makers to require a statement of significance to support applications either for a grant, or to make changes to places of worship. Not every denomination requires it (the Church of Scotland, for instance), and practice varies across the UK, but the usefulness of a good statement of significance is increasingly clear. Often it is only by setting out what is distinctive and important in a place of worship that the full impact of the proposals can be properly assessed. Although the main priority is to understand the value of a building’s fabric in architectural, artistic or archaeological terms, a building’s significance can also lie in its intangible heritage; the events that took place, the people with whom it is associated, and the story of its development. To fully understand a building’s value to the community, all of these aspects need to be considered, particularly if it is a place of worship. This article aims to briefly set out what elements in assessing significance may be evidenced through intangible heritage; how intangible heritage may be defined, with some broad examples from Europe and the UK; and finally, more specific examples relating to intangible heritage within churches and other places of worship. The Historic England document Conservation Principles: Policies and Guidance (2008) prioritises the need to understand a building’s fabric and how and why it has changed over time, but it also asks those assessing a building to consider: • who values the place, and why • how those values relate to the building’s fabric • the relative importance of each value • whether associated objects contribute to these values A church building can acquire an extra layer of significance through change of use or congregation. The Cathedral of St Alphonsa in Preston was originally a Jesuit foundation dedicated to Ignatius, and is now the seat of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Eparchy of Great Britain. (Photo: Alex Ramsay)