The Book of Common Prayer was created in 1549 by Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556). Deeply rooted in the Bible, it was the handbook of the new English Church which had just split from Rome. Revisions were made in 1552, 1559, 1604 and 1662 and the 1662 book used today remains significantly as Cranmer wrote it. Cranmer was a leader of the Reformation and Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary I. He drew extensively on his personal library of more than 600 books and manuscripts. Below are some of the many churches which use The Book of Common Prayer for all or some of their services.

Layers of history and colour

Outstandingly rich, colourful and layered with history, the chapel’s vaulted ceiling was installed by Henry VIII in the 1530s and is the grand culmination of Tudor opulence at Hampton Court. Queen Anne refurbished the interior of the chapel in the early 1700s. It was here in the chapel, in 1540, that Archbishop Cranmer handed Henry VIII a letter outlining various accusations against the King’s new wife, Catherine Howard.

Chapel Royal, Hampton Court Palace

Redolent with royal history

Just a few yards from the River Thames, the church has a history going back into the depths of the Dark Ages as there was almost certainly a church in this spot by the 8th century. The church is redolent with history. Henry VIII worshipped here with Jane Seymour, Lady Jane Grey took communion, and Elizabeth I and successor James I both attended services. John Wesley preached from the pulpit and the church has appeared in paintings by JMW Turner and James Whistler.

Chelsea Old Church, Chelsea

Knights and templars

Enter the English headquarters of the Knights Templar in the 13th century and immerse yourself in its varied history. Temple Church was built in the late 12th century between Fleet Street and the River Thames by the Knights Templar as their order expanded in numbers and influence. The Temple was King John’s London headquarters in the months before Magna Carta and three of the Charter’s heroes were buried here. The effigies of two survive to this day.

Temple Church, City of London

The oldest school in the country

Founded in 1382 by William of Wykeham, Winchester College is believed to be the oldest continuously running school in the country. The 14th century gothic chapel has one of the earliest examples of a wooden vaulted roof and the college has the original medieval cloister.

Winchester College Chapel, Winchester

A treasure trove of craftsmanship

We are a Prayer Book church, and the oldest church in the city. The year St Mary’s was built is unknown. It was originally a Chapel of Ease to the Priory at North Ferriby and is mentioned in a William Skayl’s will in 1327. Over the centuries many skilled tradesmen and craftsmen have been involved in the building, rebuilding, restoration and intricate decorative work of both the exterior and interior of St Mary’s, carrying out commissions in wood, stone and metal.

St Mary the Virgin, Hull

Amidst gorgeous gardens

The church of St Hydroc is situated within the grounds of Lanhydrock House. Its origins go back to the days when the lands at Lanhydrock belonged to Bodmin Priory and the monks came to work the priory lands in what is now the parkland surrounding Lanhydrock House. The estate covers 1,000 acres, with parkland, woods and riverside paths.

St Hydrock, Lanhydrock

The last gothic

This little gem of a church was built in 1714 by the 5th Lord Digby. The layout of the new church showed a break with earlier tradition as the object was to emphasise the importance of Bible reading and preaching. The church is remarkable in that, while it was planned as a preaching church, it continued the gothic tradition in its arcades and window arrangement; it must have been one of the last to do so.

St Mary Magdalene, Castleton

A medieval time capsule

The quiet and rather remote village of Denston is home to Suffolk's finest small church. Apart from the older tower, this is all of a piece, built by the local Denston family in the 1460s as an act of late medieval piety, and then subtly altered to serve a small college of priests about 50 years before the Reformation would sweep them away. It continued in use as the parish church of a community too poor to lavish substantial restorations on it and because of this, it has a higher degree of surviving medieval liturgical integrity than virtually any other Suffolk church.

St Nicholas, Denston

Architectural simplicity

Set in tranquil grounds, this small chapel is part of a fine 18th century group of almshouses, situated at the end of a short avenue in woodland, in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The small chapel, together with the almshouses, was built in 1724 by Henry Alnutt, a lawyer from London.

St Bartholomew's Chapel, Goring Heath

A unique dedication

The church sits across the river from Kirkhaugh village. The dedication to The Holy Paraclete is unique in England. The fine hammer beam roof, large fireplace and pencil thin fleche spire were the inspiration of its builder, Revd Octavius James.

Holy Paraclete, Kirkhaugh

Church on the north downs way

The parish of Ranmore is sparsely populated and most of the small but faithful congregation come from surrounding parishes to experience the special spiritual ambience of this remarkable building, a gem of art and architecture. The church was built in 1859 by George Cubitt MP who became the 1st Baron Ashcombe in 1892. His architect was Sir George Gilbert Scott who designed a 'High Victoriana' scaled down cathedral to serve the people who worked on the Denbies Estate.

St Barnabas, Ranmore

Miniature St Martin in the Fields

It is not until you step through the doors of the church that the true splendour of the building becomes apparent. Feast upon the wealth of sights, looking down the length of the nave; past the rows of chandeliers; past the tall box pews and their accompanying armorial stained glass windows; past the dominating pulpit and on to the Duke of Beaufort's standard flying from the entrance to the apse. Flanking the apse are the enormous ornate monuments to the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Dukes of Beaufort by Rysbrack, with the vast Grinling Gibbons monument to the 1st Duke of Beaufort.

St Michael and All Angels, Badminton

Ancient and peaceful

St Thomas à Becket is an ancient and peaceful church. During its history the church has amassed many memorials and houses a wide collection of artworks from different periods, the most recent being a 1997 gift by Lewes artist Michael Cooper of the Crucifixion as an oil on canvas. The beautiful clock is the second oldest in Sussex.

St Thomas à Becket, Cliffe

Finest tower in England

The present building was completed in 1508. The earliest written record of St Mary Magdalene church is 200 years earlier, but it is believed there was a church on this site in Saxon times. The magnificent tower has been described by Simon Jenkins as the finest parish tower in all England, and there is a gilded roof with angels and shields.

St Mary Magdalene, Taunton

Where four streets meet

Christ Church may well stand on the oldest religious site in the City of Bristol, the hill top in the centre of the original walled town, where the four chief streets meet. In the hurtling days of the Reformation, Archbishop Cranmer was here in 1534, and on the 2nd of July 1543, the Litany in English (not published until 1544) was first sung in procession from Christ Church to Saint Mary at Redcliff, a landmark in the history of the Anglican Church.

Christ Church with St Ewen, All Saints & St George, Bristol

The Prayer Book Society

These 15 churches, which have been selected on the basis of importance and geographical spread, are all Corporate Members of the Prayer Book Society which encourages rediscovery and use of the majesty and spiritual depth of The Book of Common Prayer at the heart of the Church of England’s worship. The society was founded in 1972 amidst liturgical reform, when it was feared that the 1662 Book of Common Prayer would fall into disuse and be replaced by contemporary forms of worship.

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