Historic Churches 2019

6 BCD SPECIAL REPORT ON HISTORIC CHURCHES 26 TH ANNUAL EDITION SACRED OR SECULAR The use of the nave in medieval parish churches Richard Halsey S INCE THE launch of Building Faith in our Future in 2004, the Church of England has been promoting the use of parish churches for all sorts of non-worship purposes, even allowing the sub-division of interiors to produce a commercial rent (usually from charities). The Taylor Review (published December 2017) took this a step further by linking varied community use to sustainability. While a precise definition of sustainability is still to be seen (and will presumably emerge from the Taylor Pilot scheme now in progress in Greater Manchester and Suffolk), the financial significance of community use is clear. While it is broadly accepted that public funding cannot be used to support worship-related activities or the promulgation of a particular faith, community-based activities of a faith group are far less contentious. Many do extraordinary works and can attract public funding, but should such uses become a pre-requisite for any historic church wishing to benefit from future government-funded repair grant schemes? As Roman Catholics adhere to the ancient doctrine that a church building is a sacred space and not to be used for non-worship uses, a more nuanced measure of sustainability will be needed for their churches, as well as for the places of worship of like-minded Christians and faiths. They usually have dedicated halls, meeting rooms or separate spaces adjacent to the worshipping area for social, eating and educational use, as well as for toilets and ritual ablutions. For the Church of England at least, the creation of pew-free flexible space with kitchens and toilets in pre-20th-century church buildings is frequently justified to chancellors, diocesan advisory committees (DACs) and donors as ‘bringing back the original community use’ and, particularly, returning the nave to its use in the Middle Ages as the village hall. However, this interpretation of how naves were used can be considered a gross simplification of what these spaces were built for and the uses they have housed, and the evidence needs to be carefully considered, particularly where re-ordering involves the loss of historic fabric. To allow its nave to be used more flexibly, Bath Abbey was granted a faculty in 2017 for the removal of many of its Victorian pews, despite the objections of the Victorian Society and others. (Photo: Jonathan Taylor)