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Title: The rise and fall of the 'redundant church' : urban church closure and the Church of England, from 1833 to 2011
Author: Saxby, Steven
ISNI:       0000 0004 9357 570X
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2020
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From the 1830s onwards, the Church of England started to close churches deliberately, largely as a response to population movement. Before this, churches were demolished, ruinated, and only very occasionally, repurposed; instances of a church building being preserved as a monument to its former use, given over to another denomination, or put to an “alternative use” were very rare and unintentional. This thesis identifies developments in nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century closure that have not hitherto been revealed, including how these years gave rise to the creation in the second half of the twentieth century of a new concept for a church building: the “redundant church”. The concept was not exclusive to urban areas, but this thesis focuses on such contexts — with special attention to Inner London and its contrasts with the City of Norwich and Greater Liverpool. This thesis shows that the Church of England’s creation of the “redundant church”, and its thinking about church closure from the mid-1950s through to the mid-1990s, were mainly shaped by a paradigm of secularisation and expressed in a narrative of “decay” dominated by talk of congregational decline. However, in contrast to “decay”, this thesis identifies another set of overlapping narratives — “change”, “nation” and “mission” — and argues that together they contributed to the development of a “conserve and convert” paradigm. From the early 1970s this “conserve and convert” paradigm not only challenged the secularisation paradigm and the narrative of “decay” but eventually, from the mid-1990s, superseded it as the principal means of understanding church closure. This led to a decline in usage of the language and idea of the “redundant church”, indicated in the Church of England dropping the term “redundant churches” in 2011. From its unique origins within debates about Church of England churches, the “conserve and convert” paradigm was adopted by other denominations in England and beyond as a way of thinking about what to do with churches closed for regular public worship. The fresh historical perspectives revealed in this thesis suggest new ways of understanding church closure in the past, present and future.
Supervisor: Burns, Robert Arthur Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available