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Historic Churches Study for North Staffordshire

This review has been prepared in order to assess the legacy and guide the future management of places of worship in the City of Stoke-on-Trent and the urban areas of Newcastle-under-Lyme and Kidsgrove, North Staffordshire. Prepared with the support and involvement of English Heritage, the Diocese of Lichfield, the local authorities and other denominations, it considers churches in use belonging to the Baptist Church, Church of England, Methodist Church, Roman Catholic Church and United Reformed Church. It seeks to assess both their significance and their sensitivity to change, as well as to describe their current role within the communities they serve.

From its pre-industrial origins as a scattering of small villages, the study area grew from the mid-18th century to become a major industrial conurbation, famous the world over for its pottery industry. While the legacy of medieval church building is small, there is a very considerable heritage of buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries. This period saw the rapid growth of Protestant Nonconformity, whose burgeoning and multifarious congregations built in far greater quantity than did the Established Church of England. The Anglican response to this, in the form of Commissioners’ Churches, has left us with a series of major monuments of the early Gothic Revival, whose towers even today dominate their surroundings. The 20th century also saw a great deal of church building, particularly in the expanding suburbs, and particularly for the Roman Catholic Church. However, today most of the major Christian churches are numerically in decline. The Free churches have divested themselves of many of their historic buildings, while the Church of England and increasingly the Roman Catholic Church are having to face the problem of managing a large and expensive stock of buildings with diminishing congregations, manpower and resources. It is in order to ensure that future planning takes account of the significance of the rich heritage of places of worship in the study area that this review has been prepared.

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