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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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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Oldest churches

Christianity began to arrive in Britain in the 3rd century AD from Rome, and after the Roman withdrawal in AD410 much of the population practised Christianity, often alongside other forms of worship. The building of churches, whether for monasteries or public use, was an early sign of the growing influence of Christianity. What is astounding is how many elements of these earliest buildings survive today. This list includes churches where ancient fabric remains, all date from pre AD800, and all are still being used. These are churches to visit if you want to truly touch the past.

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European churches in the UK

This is the year of European Cultural Heritage, allowing people to get closer to and more involved with their cultural heritage, including the heritage of places of worship. Many European communities have built or use churches in and around London. Here are twelve, representing the original member states of the EU in 1993, 25 years ago, and the members of the EEC, created 45 years ago.

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Hadrian’s Wall

For around three centuries, Hadrian’s Wall was a vibrant, multi cultural frontier sprawling 73 miles coast to coast. It was built by 15,000 men in under six years and milecastles, barracks, ramparts and forts punctuate a dramatic and diverse landscape. The best evidence for Christian practice dates to the 4th and 5th centuries, with a few church locations and objects found. Later, Christianity flourished under the kings of Northumbria. The Tyne Valley is known for its fine concentration of early churches, many built with stones recycled from the wall, arguably the best surviving concentration north of the Alps!

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Heavenly church cafes

What better excuse for a slice of cake than being able to enjoy some of Britain's most beautiful and historic buildings at the same time? The churches featured here are just a selection of some our favourite church cafes: we can assure you that there are many more excellent options for you to visit and many more excuses for cake, if you need one!

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Twelve church days of Christmas

Churches in Britain comprise the greatest collection of historic buildings and works of art that our country possesses. From the grandest cathedral to the tiniest parish church, they are filled with innumerable treasures, illuminating every facet of our nation's history. We wanted to see if there was anything that couldn't be found inside one of our churches, so we have set ourselves a Christmas challenge: to see if we can find everything mentioned in the song The Twelve Days of Christmas. All together now! On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

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Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens was one of the most prolific writers of the 19th century and his works are considered classics of English literature. Born in Portsmouth in 1812, Dickens was one of six children. His father worked for the Navy but was summoned back to London in 1822. The family fell into debt, and his parents and siblings moved to Marshalsea debtors prison. Dickens stayed with a friend and worked to reduce the debt. These experiences inspired many of his novels and his wizened and impoverished characters. Churches often appear in his life and works. Dickens was particularly taken with Unitarianism and attended a chapel on Little Portland Street for many years, including the time he wrote ‘A Christmas Carol’. Unfortunately nothing remains of the chapel now, but here are some of his churches.

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