Church recording

When the Deanery Council for the Chichester Diocese announced that a report was being assembled regarding the churches of the city and that one of the possible closures was to be All Saints the present Vicar, Father John Phillips and Church Warden Peter McMillan approached the East Sussex Decorative and Fine Arts Society to ask if their Church Recording Group would contemplate assembling a record of the Church.

Church recording dates back to 1971 when Shirley Bury, Assistant Keeper in the Metalwork Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum was organising an exhibition entitled Victorian Church Art. Meeting with Helen Lowenthal, NADFAS (National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Society) Vice President, she mentioned the confused state of the parish churches she had visited in search of works for the exhibition and how objects had vanished without trace. The fact that by Anglican Cannon Law a terrier and inventory is kept of contents, ‘one silver chalice’ or ‘one wooden chest’ does not help much if it is lost or stolen. In 1972, with a great deal of help from Sir John Pope Hennessey, then Director of the V&A, a pilot scheme was undertaken in Hertfordshire.

A rigid format is laid down for presentation and each item is researched under a series of headings for background date and origin etc. Numerous photographs are taken, in sections if necessary in the case of windows, and in accordance with the NADFAS Church Recorders Manual. The book Inside Churches, a guide to church furnishings published by the National Association, is also used. Recording is of benefit to students and researchers in the future.

Five copies are made of each record, one for the church, one for the Council for the Care of Churches, one for the V&A, one for the Royal Commission for Historic Monuments and one for the relevant Diocesan Office. On application the books can be accessed for research.

Recording is done in nine sections and includes writing, photographs and drawings


Prized by family history researchers and art historians. Some may well be made by  well known sculptors

Metal work  

Silver including the research of hallmarks, pewter, brass and all other items in base metal eg: railings, bells


Frontals, vestments, pulpit falls, hassocks, flags


Pillars, ceilings, arches, doorways, stone altars, statues, fonts.etc.


Hatchments, wall paintings, pictures, photos,


Altars, screens, pulpits, pews, chairs, tables, chests, hymnboards etc.


All the Parish Records, faculties, all books such as bibles, prayer books and hymn books. This section may help others in their research


All windows are logged, not only those with stained glass.  All are photographed and detailed recording is made in sections


Includes the organ, musical instruments

Lord Runcie called the recorders the ‘ shock troops of conservation ‘ since we cannot conserve what we do not know about ‘ and Thomas Cooke, Secretary to the Council for the Care of Churches praise the accuracy and dedication of the groups. Most of the recorded churches have been Church of England but the word is spreading and many other denominations have now approached their local NADFAS group.

Over 1,000 churches have now been recorded, 71 of them in Sussex