Contested heritage and the Church of England

On 21 January, we posted a guest post by Trevor Cooper Contested heritage – A review of the Church of England guidance which summarised the current position in the Church of England on memorials related to slavery, and its  May 2021 guidance Contested Heritage“. In his post, Trevor compared this to the secular position, and discusses a number of aspects that might usefully be subject to further development.

The Cathedral and Church Buildings Division of the Church of England is currently seeking expressions of interest from “people with the time and skills” to serve on the Church Buildings Council or one of its voluntary expert committees. The CBC has also announced that it is establishing a new Contested Heritage Committee, which “will focus on the Church’s priority of racial justice as it is manifested in the material culture in our churches and cathedrals”. Relevant sections from the announcement are reproduced below.

Expressions of Interest Sought: the Church Buildings Council and its committees


Contested heritage committee

The Church Building Council is establishing a new Contested Heritage Committee. This committee will focus on the Church’s priority of racial justice as it is manifested in the material culture in our churches and cathedrals. The committee will:

  • advise the Church Buildings Council and Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England on all matters relating to contested heritage policy.
  • provide advice to the Council on faculty applications relating to contested heritage referred to the Council by parishes, dioceses or Chancellors.
  • provide advice to the Commission on applications submitted by Chapters relating to contested heritage.
  • support the Cathedral and Church Buildings Division in identifying and prioritising resource provision needed by parishes, dioceses and cathedrals with their work around contested heritage. This may include:
    • advice on sources of information when researching people and places, including those whose stories have not been traditionally told;
    • how and who to consult to add to the histories that are currently under-represented by the contested heritage
    • interpretation of contested heritage in an ecclesiastical setting.
  • review the current national guidance
  • advise the Council on long-term needs relating to contested heritage

The focus of the committee’s work will be on racial justice though the committee may consider objects associated with other forms of contested heritage. The committee will meet 3-4 times a year as needed, either in person at Church House, London or online. Business will also be conducted via email. Site visits will sometimes be undertaken, with an expectation of 1-2 visits per year per member.

It is seeking people with expertise in a number of areas:

  1. Social and economic history, specifically knowledge of 17th-19th Century slavery and industrial history
  2. 17-19th Century ecclesiastical sculpture, monuments and memorials
  3. Visual culture, with a strong understanding of the interplay of politics, art and cultural boundaries; the implicit and explicit representations of works of art, their display, and impact on communities; an understanding of ecclesiastical objects within their spatial context.
  4. Communications experience relevant to advice on communicating evidence-based narratives; with community liaison experience to promote engagement, offer strategies for increasing representation, and provide strategies to assist in communicating different issues to stakeholders.
  5. Interpretation of ecclesiastical culture.
  6. Liturgist with an understanding of racial justice.

Applications for all the CBC posts close at 23.59 on Sunday 27 March 2022; further details are here.


Issues relating to “contested heritage” were first broached on this blog in October 2015, but since June 2020, posts on this area have been more frequent. Trevor Cooper’s recent post will perhaps be of use to potential applicants for the committee, as will the on-going debate on the Rustat Memorial at Jesus College, Cambridge. However, whether Archbishop Welby’s remarks on Jesus College case “were ill-timed”, as suggested in the letter in the Church Times by Charles George QC  and  John W Bullimore, will be a telling shibboleth for both applicants and indeed for the committee itself.

David Pocklington

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Contested heritage and the Church of England" in Law & Religion UK, 11 March 2022,


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