Historic buildings in the care of the Catholic Church in England and Wales have an uncertain future – particularly in inner urban areas where congregations and income have dramatically declined. English Heritage (link: Paradise Lost) admit the relative lack of attention given to these buildings. Of 3,465 Catholic churches and chapels in England and Wales, only 625 are currently listed (St Walburge’s in Preston, in the picture above, is one of them). As English Heritage states: “The fact that the history and architecture of Catholic churches and their importance as part of our heritage has gone largely unrecognised has compounded the problems now facing Catholic dioceses.” The lack of attention and interpretation is being redressed to some extent by the funding of ‘inventories’ of buildings in the Dioceses of Lancaster and Arundel and by the recent publication of A Glimpse of Heaven by Christopher Martin (alternative link).
In the near future a large proportion of the Catholic churches in the centre of Preston (for example) will have lost their original function. Will local authorities be prepared to fight for the survival of these crucial definers of the city’s image and structure?