chapter  12
22 Pages

Churches: a delicate balance

Introduction Anglican churches constitute the most significant architectural legacy from the Middle Ages. There exist a score of majestic cathedrals, almost as many minsters only a little less remarkable, and about 8,500 pre-Reformation parish or other local churches, most of which can be expected to continue in ecclesiastical use for the foreseeable future. But there will be exceptions even among medieval buildings: Norwich with a cathedral and thirty-two ancient churches and York with an even grander minster and nearly as many medieval places of worship, both still probably have too many despite a number of imaginative redundancy and reuse schemes in the last decade or so. Pre-Reformation churches exist in numbers disproportionate to the density of population in the eastern counties. Nonetheless the majority of redundant church buildings occur in major cities in the midlands, north, north-west, Scotland, and Wales and are, naturally, of eighteenth-and particularly of nineteenth-century date. This does not alter the fact that as places of worship they enjoy particular status under the planning and listed buildings system, namely 'ecclesiastical exemption', although since 1986 in particular this has been eroded.