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Buildings: Interior & Contents

Guidance on looking after Bells, Clocks, Organs, Memorials, Seating, Sound and AV, Stained glass, Telecomms

Keith Halliday

Church Buildings Advisor

01904 699523

Churches are unusual among historic buildings in that so many are still used for their original purpose after a history of up to a thousand years or more. Naturally, during their history many changes have occurred and as the needs of the congregation change the building has to be adapted accordingly. But all decisions about change have to be fully informed and mindful of the building’s significance, and that includes its contents, both moveable items and those incorporated into the building fabric.

Anyone responsible for churches and their furnishings, whether specialist or non-specialist, should be aware of the basic principles of modern conservation practice. The main aim of conservation is the preservation of our cultural heritage for future generations. Today, conservation is generally defined as the ‘management of change’. Modern conservation does not inhibit appropriate change or prevent access. Rather, it attempts to reconcile the needs of the object or building with the needs of the people who use or visit it. For churches, this means that a careful balance has to be struck between the needs of the congregation, worship and mission on the one hand and, on the other, the requirements for the long-term preservation of the building or the object.


The Church of England website has a wealth of information about looking after your church bells and bellframe – how to record them and assess their significance, how to look after them, the permissions you will need before carrying out any maintenance or repairs on them (including a brief guide to works permitted to church bells under Lists A and B), and how to deal with complaints about noise.

It includes the ‘Code of Practice for the Conservation and Repair of Bells and Bellframes issued by the CBC in 2007, and with which your contractor should be fully conversant.

The Central Council of Church Bell Ringers (CCCBR) has published new guidance on Belfry Upkeep, intended for the person responsible for the care and maintenance of belfry installations. The online format of ‘Belfry Upkeep’ enables the CCCBR to keep this guidance up to date.

If you require the assistance of the DAC’s Bells and Clocks Adviser, please contact the DAC Secretary, Catherine Copp.


If you require the assistance of the DAC’s Bells and Clocks Adviser, please contact the DAC Secretary, Catherine Copp.

Pipe Organs and other Musical Instruments

It includes advice on routine maintenance, and tuning, the different types of organs, organ case conservation, organ builder reports, the amplification of organs, and replacing or disposing of a redundant organ.

If you require the assistance of the DAC’s Organs Adviser, please contact the DAC Secretary, Catherine Copp.

New Art

Before commissioning any new art for your church, whether inside or outside, whether an icon, a stained glass window, or a sculpture, please see the Church of England’s guidance.

Following the correct commissioning process from the start will give your faculty petition the greatest possible chance of success and will avoid disappointment and wasted costs.


Historic seating can be significant in its own right, as well as contributing to the overall significance of your church building, and whilst replacing pews with chairs can seem an attractive idea it can have a major impact on your church’s interior. As the Church of England’s website notes, there is a presumption against any change that will harm the historic character of your church. So, if you wish to replace all or some of your church’s seating, you will need to demonstrate that the need for change is strong enough to justify the harm.

Take note of The Church of England’s guidance on seating which includes a step-by-step approach to assessing your church seating and the options available to you.

The DAC would specifically draw your attention to the CBC’s guidance note on seating which includes the following: “With many years of experience and having seen a range of completed schemes, the Church Buildings Council generally advocates the use of high quality wooden chairs (i.e. unupholstered) and pews… The Council’s experience is that wooden chairs have the greatest sympathy with historic church environments, present the best value for money with long lifespans, and that a well-designed, ergonomic wooden chair can provide as much comfort as an upholstered design”. Their note also explains why upholstered seats are not considered to be appropriate. The DAC endorses the CBC’s view and will rarely recommend the introduction of upholstered chairs into historic and/or listed church buildings.

Stained Glass

Any work to a stained glass window needs faculty permission and specialist advice. Please see the Church of England’s guidance.

If your stained glass windows are in need of repair you should seek the advice of your quinquennial inspector/church architect in the first instance to establish the cause of the damage (climate, corroded fixings, movement in the stonework) and they will direct you to an accredited stained glass conservator should treatment be necessary.

In rare instances where the window concerned is of very high significance, or if Environmental Protective Glazing is to be installed, the DAC’s Stained Glass Adviser may request a site visit.

CBC guidance A-Z

For all the CBC’s advice and guidance on various aspects of church buildings, please see their searchable A-Z resource.

Church Log Book, and Property Register (Terrier and Inventory)

Your church Log Book records all alterations, additions, removals or repairs to the fabric, fixtures and fittings of the church and churchyard.

Your Property Register (Terrier and Inventory) is a list of all lands and all articles owned by your church.

The CBC has published editable versions of both of these documents which you can download for your own use:

Log Book

Property Register