Architectural and Historical Review

This Review, commissioned by English Heritage and the Diocese of Plymouth and supported by the Patrimony Committee of the Bishops’ Conference, assesses the architectural and historic interest of parish churches within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Plymouth. It is intended to be an aid to the Diocese, to parishes and to the statutory authorities when questions arise involving proposed changes to, or possible closure of churches. It is intended to provide a framework within which decision making can take place, so that historical and architectural considerations can be balanced alongside pastoral and financial considerations.

In the past there has been a tendency to underplay the significance of the built heritage of the Catholic Church, both on the part of national heritage bodies and also within the Church. Catholic churches in England and Wales are, generally speaking, under-represented in the statutory lists. Where remedied by means of spot-listing, this has often caused dioceses great difficulties in terms of forward planning. However, it is important that in planning for the future, dioceses should give due weight to the desirability of looking after the Church’s patrimony as well as pastoral and other considerations.

Although the Diocese of Plymouth has a smaller Catholic population than most dioceses, and therefore fewer churches, it does nevertheless have a significant Catholic past and heritage of historic buildings. Of the 103 churches visited, 21 were already listed as buildings of special architectural and historic interest at the start of the project. Two further churches were listed during the course of the preparation of the review, and the review has identified a further eight possible candidates for listing, two of them considered strong candidates and six more borderline. In addition to these, one listed church has been identified as a possible candidate for delisting, and there is one church which remains on the statutory list, although long demolished. In percentage terms, this means that the number of churches protected by listing may rise from its present level of 22.33% of the churches included in the study to just over 29%. Pending individual listing decisions, it is recommended that those churches identified as candidates for listing are brought within the formal remit of the Historic Churches Committee.

In addition to assessing the special architectural and historic interest of the churches (and therefore their listed status), the report assesses their sensitivity to change, either in continued use as churches or in the event of closure. 28 churches (just over 27%) have been placed in the two higher categories of sensitivity and significance, while 75 (just under 73%) have been put in the two lower categories. It is hoped that this report will encourage interest in the Diocese’s fascinating history. It is also hoped that it will promote positive discussion about what the Catholic heritage means, to those who are responsible for its upkeep, to those who experience it in their worship and to those who have a more general interest in or responsibility for the conservation of the historic environment.

The complete document 'Churches in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Plymouth: An Architectural and Historical Review' can be found below. The documents relating to specific parishes can be found on the relevant parish webpages.

Churches in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Plymouth: An Architectural and Historical Review