There are over 20 listed churches in the Greater Manchester region. These all form an important part of the region’s cultural heritage and history. Sadly, due to deterioration and lack of funds, some of these buildings are struggling to survive.
St Augustine’s church in Stockport was one of these. Over time, it became a derelict building that blighted the area for years. Local residents and councillors were grateful when the Blackmore Group launched a development project to convert this rundown church. The sensitive restoration retained the church’s charm and gave the once derelict church new life – the much-needed provision of additional housing.
Not only is it potentially cheaper to find buildings which can be readily converted to housing, but these types of renovations are becoming highly desirable. Construction companies and property investment groups have adjusted their projects and portfolios to include heritage building conversions and breathe new life into old buildings.
The Importance of Cultural Heritage
The UK is full of buildings with cultural, religious, archaeological, and industrial significance. These range from stately homes to castles, theatres to opera houses, and churches to cathedrals, with an array of industrial heritage such as bridges, aqueducts, and mills. In total, there are 20,000 scheduled monuments, 1,600 registered parks and gardens, 28 world heritage sites, and almost half a million listed buildings in the UK. They range from the industrial revolution all the way back to 4,000 BC.
Every single one helps form the story of Britain. It is vital these buildings aren’t left to fall into disrepair, forgotten by the masses. They can play an important role in generating economic opportunities in the area and supporting the local tourism industry.
Their purpose also stretches beyond wealth; these heritage buildings provide a sense of identity and continuity in a fast-changing world for future generations. They possess historical value and remind us of the history-changing events that occurred in the area. These could be religious, social, or political.
Degradation of Cultural Heritage
Unfortunately, their age makes heritage buildings vulnerable to degradation. Costs can outweigh revenue and the buildings may not be able to fulfil their original purpose anymore. In cases like St. Augustine’s church, this can lead to them being abandoned. Considering their beauty and cultural importance, this is far from ideal.
Various methods have been tried and tested for generating income to sustain these buildings. Admission prices can help cover fees and track visitor numbers but unless there is a huge influx of tourists, renovation and upkeep costs still outweigh revenue. The same principle also applies to donations and honesty boxes – they can help but struggle to provide the long-term sustainability of the heritage building.
When costs and visitor numbers aren’t correctly balanced, decay can get even worse. Visitor impact can cause the accelerated decay of these buildings, without providing the costs to justify it.
With a shortage of houses in the UK, many potential homeowners are looking for alternate solutions. In the last decade, there have been around half a million buildings within the UK that have been listed. These were not originally designed to be homes, but with professional conversion, they are given a new lease on life. In the case of derelict and unused heritage buildings, they are being preserved for future generations and providing alternative forms of housing.
Sadly, for St Augustine’s church in Stockport, renovation costs became overwhelming and unaffordable. But thanks to its redevelopment, the local community as a whole reap the benefits given to the area. The church now provides important additional housing in the area while keeping its historical charm and heritage.
The UK is extremely proud of its heritage buildings for good reason. Some of them date back centuries and help preserve an iconic snapshot of British history. Not all of these listed buildings are suitable for conversion, but many of these older structures can be converted into stunning homes. St Augustine’s church is a testament to that.
With an increasing trend towards heritage homes, along with a housing shortage desperate for alternatives, investment is piling up for the renovation of heritage buildings.