Caring for your Historic Place of Worship Conference

Tower Hamlets Council hosted the first “Caring for your Historic Place of Worship” conference last month where members of different faiths came together to discuss the issues facing the conservation of the borough’s historic places of worship.
Tower Hamlets is home to many historic places of worship which actively contribute to the richness and diversity of the borough. Many of these are listed buildings due to their special architectural and historic interest while some buildings have even served different faith communities over their active lives. The Gurdwara Sikh Sangat in Bow was once a chapel and the Brick Lane Jamme Masjid was once a synagogue.
However factors such as economic conditions, the difficulties of maintaining large historic buildings, sometimes small congregations and lack of resources can all impact on the conservation of historic places of worship.
The Tower Hamlets’ Historic Places of Worship Support Scheme is a unique partnership between the council and English Heritage which was launched in July 2013 to address the effects of these issues.
The scheme focuses on the common interests and shared goals of the various faith groups in Tower Hamlets to maintain their historic buildings and provides targeted advice and support.
Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman said: “The borough has a number of important historic places of worship which serve our multi-faith community and support community cohesion. This scheme brings together members from all faiths to help share ideas of how we can work together to conserve our important historical buildings for all of our residents.”
Councillor Rabina Khan, cabinet member for Housing, Development and Renewal added: “The Historic Place of Worship Scheme is a great way to bring different parts of the community together so that we can collectively look at how we can preserve the borough’s important and historic buildings.”
39 people representing faith communities and amenity societies in the borough, as well as officers of English Heritage and the council came together for the conference which was held at the Bancroft Road Library.
Guests heard from a number of people on issues such as how to undertake maintenance and repair, insurance and health and safety. The Heritage Lottery Fund also covered funding opportunities for historic places of worship, including the national Grants for Places of Worship Scheme.
Following the conference a group of delegates toured the borough to look at recent successful projects in four the borough’s historic places of worship: Brick Lane Jamme Masjid, the TAB Centre Shoreditch, St. John on Bethnal Green and St. Paul Old Ford.
Timothy Jones, Principal Inspector of Historic Buildings and Areas at English Heritage said: “English Heritage is delighted that Tower Hamlets has become the first local authority in the country to part-fund a Places of Worship support officer. It is a testimony to the value they attach to their rich and diverse legacy of places of worship, a legacy valued equally by English Heritage. We look forward to continuing to work in close partnership with all those local groups involved in securing the future of these irreplaceable architectural gems.”
To find out more about the Historic Places of Worship Scheme and how to participate visit the conservation area of the council’s website http://www.towerhamlets.gov.uk

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