Whatever your passion; art, wildlife, sculpture, family history, architecture, walking, rock climbing, searching out the most perfect cream tea or even just finding somewhere quiet to sit and read a book. These are all things you can do in church buildings around the UK.

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Extraordinary women: Heritage Open Days 2018

Heritage Open Days this year is spread over two weekends for double the fun, thousands of places are taking part from 6-9 and 13-16 September. Hundreds of the events have been inspired by our ‘Extraordinary Women’ theme to celebrate the stories of local women past and present. Here’s a selection from the many wonderful churches opening up for the festival.

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Londons unseen chapels

London is teeming with chapels of all shapes and sizes, often out of view of the main tourist routes and, sadly, many people miss them. They are steeped in history, concerning both individual people and international events, provide friendly and welcoming spaces, and have for hundreds of years been places in which people have found respite and comfort. Here are some of London’s often unseen gems to explore.

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Great organs

Although originally invented about 250 BC, the first use of the organ in Christian worship is not recorded. Mozart called it ‘The King of Instruments’. It commands the widest range of both pitch and between loud and soft of all instruments. It is also one of the most complex instruments to play. Many church organs were removed by either the Puritans in the 16th century or Oliver Cromwell’s men 17th century. Therefore, the great majority of church organs date from the second half of the 19th century.

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Oak apple day

The escape of Charles II from England in 1651 was a key episode in his life. The retreat started with the Royalist defeat at Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651 when Charles was forced to flee. He had many adventures, most famously hiding up an oak tree in Boscobel Wood, before setting sail for France in October. The story is remembered in the traditions of Oak Apple Day, on 29 May. To mark the occasion, here are nine churches along Charles’s escape route after the battle.

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Royal weddings

The wedding day of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is fast approaching, with a ceremony in the historic St George's Chapel at Windsor. But other happy and glorious churches and cathedrals across the UK have also hosted royal weddings through history. Here we take a peek inside.

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Smallest churches

Church buildings come in many varieties, from old to new, urban to rural, and big to small. In this feature, we appreciate the little churches in life. Here is a beautiful selection of the smallest churches in Britain. It is hotly debated whether Bremilham Church or St Trillo’s chapel in Rhos on Sea, is actually the smallest in the UK.

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In 2018 the Royal Air Force celebrates its 100th birthday, and will reflect on history and achievements as well as celebrating the work the RAF is currently doing. Up and down the country there are many links between churches and former airfields. Churches often house poignant reminders of brave aircrew, worth seeking out for the stories that they tell. Standing in a quiet church now, it is hard to imagine the bustle and noise that there was once such big part of life there. Here is a selection of churches with close connections to the history and present day work of the Royal Air Force.

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pre-Raphaelite art

In 1848 a group of young artists, including John Everett Millais, William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, formed the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. By 1853 the term pre-Raphaelite came to be associated with a wider movement interested in medievalism and traditional handicraft, as a reaction against industrialisation and mechanisation. Two followers of Rossetti were William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. Rossetti, Morris and Burne-Jones joined with other artists and architects to provide some of the most remarkable adornments to our nation’s churches. Here are twelve to inspire you.

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Deeds not words

The many and varied women who fought for suffrage, the suffragists and suffragettes, did not limit themselves to simply arguing for the vote. They were social reformers in many areas, and their wide ranging and enormous influence is still with us today. The church did not always have an easy relationship with women's suffrage, and some churches actually became a target for radical suffragette action. Many, however, are rightly proud of their links to the women who have made such a difference to our society.

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Sir Christopher Wren

Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) was an English anatomist, astronomer, geometer, and mathematician physicist, as well as one of the most highly acclaimed English architects in history. He rebuilt 52 churches in the City of London after the Great Fire in 1666, including what is regarded as his masterpiece, St Paul's Cathedral, completed in 1710, and where he is buried. Bill Bryson and Joanna Lumley, supporters of the National Churches Trust, have chosen their favourite Wren churches for English Tourism Week.

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