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A Stitch in Times Saves about 20%

Maintenance might not be the most glamorous side of managing historic places of worship, but it can make all the difference. We are frequently told that regular maintenance reduces the risk of expensive large-scale repairs, but Historic England decided to investigate this in more detail and commissioned research to explore the value of maintenance. 

Research was carried out by APEC Architects on a sample of 30 listed church buildings across England, based on three successive Quinquennial Inspection Reports for each building. The research aimed to:

  • Estimate the repair cost for works to these buildings;
  • Estimate the cost for repairing issues when they had been first identified;
  • Establish whether prompt attention to minor repair and maintenance would have slowed the development of major repair needs.

The main findings of the research are listed below but you can read the full report on Historic England’s’ website -

Main Findings

  • The estimated cost for repairing all defects across the sample at the time when they were first identified is approximately £6.95m.
  • Delaying repair results in a significantly increased cost liability. Across the sample, delaying repair resulted in an increase of between 15% and 20% over and above the costs that would have been incurred if the defects had been fixed when first identified.
  • Approximately 25% of the £6.95m could be attributed to delayed repair and consequential damage caused by the delay. Consequential damage is caused when one problem leads to another e.g. a slipped slate leads to roof timbers getting saturated. It is clear that regular maintenance mitigates the potential additional costs associated with both delayed repair and consequential repair.
  • Roofs and rainwater goods are the main causes of defects and consequential damage.
  • Buildings of different ages generally have the same type of defects, suggesting that research findings are relevant for historic places of worship, regardless of when they were built.

The report also highlighted:

  • minor roof and rainwater goods repairs noted as low priority or desirable in QIRs, can escalate to urgent within the quinquennium
  • access to maintain high-level gutters is an issue
  • a QIR with a very long list of urgent repairs can be overwhelming and lead to little work being undertaken
  • hard pointing to masonry is still an issue
  • Churches are not achieving compliance with their legal requirements, particularly in relation to testing of electrical systems, fire regulations and asbestos management…this might invalidate insurance
  • lack of funding is an issue, particularly when a church is turned down for a grant and repairs are delayed despite the best efforts of the people involved

The findings of this report might not come as a surprise to many people, but they do help to highlight the need for regular monitoring for tell-tale signs, such as blocked gutters, damp patches and slipped slates.  Gutters blocked by debris or growing vegetation will lead to problems with the roofs and walls.

If you would like to find out more about how to maintain your church, please book a place on the FREE Faith in Maintenance course.  As well as talks, the day includes a practical exercise looking at elements of a church building and learning to identify defects.

Everyone who attends receives a free copy of the Good Maintenance Guide and after the course help is available via SPAB’s telephone technical advice service.

This course would usually cost around £100 per person to attend, but thanks to support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, two workshops will be FREE to attend in the Diocese of Ely: 

  • St James’, Little Paxton – Saturday 12th October, 10am– 4pm – FULLY BOOKED
  • St Peter’s and St Paul’s, Wisbech – Saturday 21st March 2020, 10am - 4pm – PLACES AVAILABLE

Thanks go to both the churches for offering the venues free of charge. This opportunity is unlikely to be repeated so BOOK NOW to avoid missing out, contact: or on 07948 350211

Page last updated: Monday 12th June 2023 10:06 AM
First published on: 1st October 2019
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