The Friends of Friendless Churches was established by a group of friends in 1957 to save redundant but beautiful places of worship from demolition, decay and unsympathetic conversion.
We believe that an ancient and beautiful church fulfils its primary function merely by existing. It is, in itself, and irrespective of the members using it, an act of worship. These buildings are our greatest architectural and cultural legacy, shaping landscapes and lives for hundreds of years. They are the spiritual and artistic investment of generations, and they should survive for the benefit of future generations.
The Friends of Friendless Churches is an independent, non-denominational charity which receives no government funding in England, and a modest grant in Wales. There are lots of ways you can support our work, from membership to volunteering.
Friends of Friendless Churches Director, Rachel Morley, explains how and why we help rescue and protect redundant churches.
Today, we are the friends and guardians of 60 churches of architectural and historical importance, from early medieval single cell structures to soaring 20th century masterpieces. They overlook golden valleys, languish on desolate headlands, hold fort amid oil refineries, perch on the banks of the Thames, and rest in weary majesty on roadsides.
We rescue and repair historic buildings, by undertaking gentle repairs, sensitive restoration, and careful conservation. We champion traditional methods and support local communities by employing local crafts and trades-people wherever possible. Thanks to local volunteers — our eyes and ears on the ground — our churches remain open year-round. We celebrate the history, art, architecture, and science of our sites, sharing their beauty and brilliance with people across the world.
We aim to be a voice for disused churches in the heritage sector and beyond, bringing attention to the growing challenge of the future of redundant places of worship and advocating for their importance and perpetual preservation. Last but not least, we strive to give a voice to the people of the past who built and shaped these deeply meaningful buildings over centuries. By re-telling their stories and highlighting their achievements, we help to keep their memories alive.
The Friends of Friendless Churches was established at a meeting held on 3 July 1957 in Committee Room 13 of the House of Commons.
Led by Welsh journalist, politician, sportsman and polymath Ivor Bulmer-Thomas, the founding committee was a group of friends with a passion for protecting the ecclesiastical heritage of England and Wales.
The group sought to become friends to friendless churches, to “secure the preservation of churches and chapels, or of any part thereof, in the United Kingdom, whether belonging to or formerly used by the Church of England or by any other religious body … for public access and the benefit of the nation.”
Initially focused on campaigning and grant-aiding, in 1972 the charity began to take ownership of buildings. The residual tower of St Matthew’s at Lightcliffe, Yorkshire was the very first friendless church adopted by the Friends of Friendless Churches.
Ivor and his influential friends saved countless historic churches — hopeless cases, lost causes — from ruin, neglect and demolition. We are proud to continue their legacy.
Our small, hard-working organisation has just one and a half members of staff, who are guided by an Executive Committee of Trustees
The Rt Revd Wyn Evans
The Most Hon. the Marquess of Salisbury
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville
Professor Andrew Saint
Roger is a barrister specialising in civil litigation, with particular expertise in property law, ecclesiastical law, and local government and public law.
He was MP for Monmouth from 1992-97, and Parliamentary under Secretary of State in the Department for Social Security from 1994-97.
Peter Scott MBE
Bio coming soon
Simon is a solicitor and was a partner in international law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer between 1991 and 2017. Since retirement, he has been involved in a range of business and charitable activities.
Rev'd Alex Barrow
Alex is Vicar of All Saints’, East Sheen, and also serves as Area Dean of Richmond and Barnes. He did his pre-ordination training at Ripon College, Cuddesdon; and before ordination he worked in commercial property in the City and took undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at St Andrews.
Sir Paul Britton CB CVO
After a career in the civil service, Paul was Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet (2001-9) and Appointments Secretary to the Prime Minister (2009-14). Since retirement he has been trustee of a number of charities, including the Friends of Friendless Churches. He is currently Chairman of the Friends of Kent Churches, and Vice-chairman of the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England and of the National Churches Trust.
George has over 10 years’ experience with various commercial and marketing roles in digital retail, creating compelling propositions to drive digital transformation. George holds an MA in Art History from the University of St Andrews.
Catherine Cullis MBE
Catherine’s career has concentrated on the care of historic ecclesiastical buildings. She was the Churches and Cathedrals Officer for the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, and is now a Trustee of the Society.
John is Chartered Accountant and has held senior roles in both industry and the profession. He read Art History at University. On graduating he joined a conservation studio and worked at several nationally important sites including Exeter and Wells Cathedrals. He lives in Herefordshire, and works in a finance role with a small portfolio of businesses.
Rev'd Philip Gray
Bio coming soon
Dr Elizabeth Green
Liz is the National Trust’s Senior National Curator for Wales and Architectural History. She completed her PhD in Mediaeval Welsh Hall Houses, and has a particular interest in mediaeval and vernacular architecture.
Richard Halsey MBE
Richard is a medieval ecclesiastical architectural historian, whose working life was in a variety of roles in The Department of the Environment and then English Heritage, particularly involving places of worship.
Dr John Morgan Guy
John is Honorary Research Fellow at the Roderic Bowen Library and Archives of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Lampeter. He has researched and written extensively on Welsh ecclesiastical history. He has a parallel interest in the history of medicine, in particular public health and infectious disease in the 19th century.
Howard is a qualified economist, accountant, and treasurer with experience of running companies in Germany, Austria, Thailand, and Latin America — as well as the UK.
Kirstie is a qualified architect with over 20 years’ experience of working in the historic built environment. She was awarded a SPAB Lethaby Scholarship in 2005 and is an ‘Architect Accredited in Building Conservation’ (AABC). Kirstie is a Director at Ptolemy Dean Architects.
John has been an ecclesiastical historian for over 40 years. He has taught at universities in England and Europe, and is the author of sixteen books. Each year he guides specialist tours around churches in England and Wales, and has personally visited two-thirds of England’s medieval churches.
Following an undergraduate degree in Process and Chemical Engineering, Rachel completed a postgraduate course in Building Conservation & Repair at Trinity College, Dublin. In 2013, she was awarded Heritage Lottery funding to specialise in architectural stone and plaster conservation through the Institute of Conservation.
She served as a Guardian and Trustee of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings for six years, is a judge for the John Betjeman Award for church conservation, and an assessor for the Architect’s Accreditation in Building Conservation.
Katie passed her PhD viva in Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Kent in 2021 with a thesis on art and the cult of Saint Faith inspired by the wall painting of Saint Faith at Westminster Abbey. Before this she completed both an MA in Medieval and Early Modern Studies and a BA (Hons) in History, both also at the University of Kent.
She joined the Friends of Friendless Churches in February 2022, and works Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
We administer the Cottam Will Trust, bequeathed by Father Cottam for the purchase of objects of beauty to be placed in ancient gothic churches for the furtherance of religion. Learn more about this fund by selecting 'Art grants' below.
We also administer a trust that benefits the three churches of Tilbury juxta Clare and Ovington in Essex and St Stephen’s in Bournemouth. We hold funds on behalf of the churches of Llangua in Monmouthshire, Besselsleigh in Berkshire, and Long Crichel in Dorset.