For over two hundred years after the Act of Uniformity (1559) outward observance of the Roman Catholic faith was illegal in England. The building of public places of worship did not resume until the end of the 18th century, gathering pace after Catholic Emancipation (1829) and the restoration of the hierarchy (1850).
The 20th century saw accelerated expansion. This is therefore a relatively modern building stock, with approximately two thirds of more than 3,000 churches dating from the 20th century, and from the 1950s and 1960s in particular. Although there are stylistic crossovers with Anglican and, to a lesser extent, Nonconformist church design, Catholic churches have a distinct character, driven in large part by liturgical function. The building type has evolved over the years to meet changing liturgical and other needs.
Today, a decline in the number of priests and demographic and pastoral change means that many Catholic churches face an uncertain future.
This introduction to Heritage Assets concerns public places of parish worship. It does not consider private or institutional chapels, or those attached to convents and monasteries.