What Church Recorders do

Around the country, some 2,500 members of The Arts Society volunteer as church recorders. This activity started in 1973 following an agreement between The Arts Society and the Victoria & Albert Museum: the aim is to make available to researchers detailed information about the vast range of arts and crafts in the nations’ churches, which would otherwise not be easily accessible. Many Arts Society branches have a Church Recorder Group. The records go not only to the church concerned but to the reference archives of Historic England, the National Art Library at the V&A, the Church of England Archive and regional repositories. They are highly regarded for their calibre, attention to detail and comprehensiveness. We describe everything inside a church, as well as items held for the parish at the Gloucester Cathedral Treasury and Gloucestershire Archives. As well as helping researchers, church records help to ensure that the church’s treasures are appreciated locally and cared for. Nearly 2,000 records have been completed nationwide

A church record consists of ten sections: about memorials, metalwork, stonework, woodwork, textiles, registers and books, windows, organs, clocks and the like. It has lots of colour photographs and there is scope for noting some local and family background. When the group has finished a draft record, it goes to the CR Area Representative who reads it carefully and asks for amendments where needed, before we print it, send it to The Arts Society HQ and present it to the parish.

How we’re getting on

Our own group is about ten strong. It’s a friendly group – and frankly we could do with two or three more members! The way we work is that one or two of us pick a section to work on, and our “Compiler” (editor) acts as mentor, helping us to knock each section gradually into shape in the right format. We meet twice a month on Friday mornings – except from November to March when churches get a bit chilly! The Arts Society provides a detailed handbook and there are helpful Arts Society books and leaflets: so plenty of help is at hand.

In 2014 we handed over a Record on Guiting Power church – one of 55 completed in the country that year. It contained over a hundred pages of text and some 150 photos and was adjudged “excellent” at NADFAS House. From 2012 to 2015 we worked at St John the Baptist, Tredington, and in 2016 presented our record, which contained even more detail, to a welcoming congregation (see photos). NADFAS House assessed this record as “an excellent, well-presented record with no mistakes at all”, a rare compliment. 

From 2015 until mid-2017, we worked at St Lawrence's, Swindon Village. The resulting record has nearly 300 pages: half text, half photos. It was presented to the church in November 2017.

In January 2019 we presented a very long and detailed report on St Michael’s church in Bishop’s Cleeve, on which we had been working for many years.

We are now completing fieldwork at St Peter’s church, Dumbleton, an attractive historic parish church. Later this year, we shall do a “church crawl”, ending in refreshments, to decide which church to record next.  

If you’re interested in the store of historic artefacts held in our churches, why not give it a try?  Do have a word with one of the Branch Committee, send an e-mail via our “Contact us” tab or click here