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Brief introduction to the Church Plans Online project

The Incorporated Church Building Society

The ICBS was founded in 1818 to provide funds for the building and enlargement of Anglican churches throughout England and Wales. It was the principal voluntary Society for promoting the building and restoration of churches throughout the most active period of church building since the Middle Ages.

In 1982 the adminstration of the Society was transferred to the Historic Churches Preservation Trust. Whilst the ICBS continues to give grants for church building under this new administration, the ICBS archive was deposited in Lambeth Palace Library between 1974 and 1990.


WINDLESHAM, St. John the Baptist (1829-1840) Surrey
BURSLEM, Christ Church, Cobridge (1829-1841)  Staffordshire

The ICBS archive

The archive includes over 15,000 files relating to applications by parishes for grants from the Society. The earliest file is dated 1818 and the latest 1982. Individual files may include application forms, correspondence, plans, building specifications, engravings or artists' impressions, certificates of satisfactory completion, parochial subscription lists, parish magazines, and photographs (from 1867 onwards).

There are also minute books for the period 1818-1987 which record the proceedings of committees and AGMs. The minute books are very useful in filling in the gaps where files haven't survived. There is also an additional volume relating to the foundation of the Society in 1818.

Some 12,300 plans are included in these files which, in some instances, are the only surviving evidence for the layout of the church before restoration. Where the church has since been demolished, it may be the only extant plan.

In 1889 the Secretary of the ICBS, Rev. Blakiston, offered a selection of 700 plans and drawings, dating mostly 1818 - 1854 to the Society of Antiquaries of London. These items are an integral part of the files now held by the Library, but their physical separation from the majority of the archive divorces them from their intellectual context and makes them inconvenient to use. The inclusion of this material in Church Plans Online will reunite the archive by virtual means for the first time in over a century.

click here to find out more about the plans and the database