Understanding places of worship
Churches and cathedrals are such a familiar part of our landscape that it is possible to take them for granted. They do, however, make a vital contribution to Britain’s heritage, attractiveness and economy. Whilst by their very nature churches are not commercially-run attractions, some initiatives have already done much to encourage churches to open their doors and to adopt good ‘visitor welcome’ practices. This is not just about buildings: churches are veritable story-boxes, filled with tell-tale evidence of people and events that have shaped our land. For many visitors they remain a mystery, merely a part of the quintessential picture-postcard view. Yet those who venture inside are invariably rewarded and often surprised by what they find - bringing heart and depth to their destination experience. At a deeper level, churches and other places of worship are integral to the story of the places and communities within which they have evolved. They are signposts of our heritage, points where you can touch history, as well as places of visual and spiritual wonder. Andrew Duff, Inspired Northeast
Each of the 41,000 churches, chapels and meeting houses in the UK is unique. Each has developed over time to meet the needs of its local community, and reflects the history of that community back to us. They are the keepers of our community heritage, and of the rites and traditions which have been practiced for generations. Churchyards can be a veritable ‘who’s who’ of the area.
National Churches Trust: development of an ancient parish church
Architecturally, churches are unlike other buildings. They were all built for the same purpose, but no two are the same. They are built to be special, and most remain so whatever their age or condition. Many have also undergone changes, and the history of the local area, region or even country can be read in the alterations made.
National Churches Trust: buildings
More than a museum
Churches, chapels and meeting houses are treasure houses of amazing artwork. From carved pew ends to ‘green men’, from medieval wall painting to modern furniture design, they hold a collection as great as any museum.
Unlike museums, the objects, furnishings and fittings are still in their original use. Loved and cared for by a dedicated team of volunteers, they enable every person who steps through the door to touch the past.
Most churches, chapels and meeting houses are surrounded by land, gardens or churchyards. Even in some of our busiest and densely packed city centres, they provide green space to relax and contemplate and to explore local history and discover wildlife.
Sometimes places of worship are special simply because of the way they fit into the landscape, because they have a splendid collection of yew trees in the churchyard or because they harbour rare bugs or grasses.