Church exploring with our camera

In this special blog post from one of our Friends, Ros Patrick described the joy she and her husband get from exploring and photographing local churches.

My husband and I moved to England from Australia six years ago. One of the first things we noticed was the beauty of the countryside and the next was the incredible age of so many buildings. We live in Wales so we’re in the perfect place for both.

Within thirty to forty miles of our home we have so far visited over 160 churches and we have found it’s a wonderful hobby to photograph them and read their history. This includes finding them in the first place as many are quite isolated and up narrow country lanes. We’ve walked to quite a few for the last mile or so as driving on a road barely wide enough for one tractor is a bit nerve-wracking.

Whole villages must have disappeared as the size of the church is completely out of proportion to the size of the hamlet where it is. Other churches have been surrounded by buildings and parking can be difficult.

As we’re in the Welsh Marches a lot of the history is pretty bloodthirsty, and some families have a sad reminder in the graveyards of the members who died in battles.

We have been lucky as we only rarely find churches which are locked – I feel we should give a special thankyou to the men and women who must open and lock them each day. Some of the locks require a very large and ancient key.

We have found several churches which have workmen doing repairs and maintenance and it must be very expensive to keep such old buildings in a good condition. We have met a lot of people who enjoy their beauty and history and I hope will do so for many years.

You can explore some of Ros’s beautiufl photographs in their flickr photostream.

Protecting your church during building work

In this guest post from Neal James at Panthera Security, we take a look at securing your scaffolding, building work and church from unwanted visitors. In the light of several thefts and episodes of vandalism at churches with ongoing building projects, this post is particularly timely, and we hope very useful.

Hampshire, FROXFIELD GREEN, St Peter's on the Green (2013) #001

How to protect your project

By their very nature churches are community buildings and we believe they should remain so. We know that most churches are over a hundred years old, and consequently are often in need of reparation works.

We know that most churches have alarm systems now in place and that is fine for normal use.

However, when work to your church becomes necessary you will invariably need to have a scaffold erected to provide safe work at height access to the building.

By providing that safe access to your contractor, you have also provided it to other, less than welcome visitors!

nsi-goldPanthera Security, Part of the Panthera Group have worked with the National Security Inspectorate on raising awareness to this often overlooked problem, and in developing NCP115 the Code of Practice for the Design, Installation & Maintenance of Scaffolding Alarm Systems. Panthera Group is proud to say that after a rigorous auditing process, we are the UK’s first company to become NSI Gold approved installers.

It is important to understand that it is the installer that is approved, and not the equipment, as some are led to believe.

Non-approved installers can still install scaffold alarm systems, but they are not required to adhere to the Code of Practice, therefore they may install an insufficient amount of detectors, thereby leaving access points unprotected.

Using NSI Gold approved installers will negate that problem. We always ensure that all vulnerabilities are covered and will issue an NSI Certificate of Compliance once the installation is complete.

Greater Manchester, STOCKPORT, St Mary (Ian Hamilton 2007) #003Ecclesiastical Insurance already recommends the use of NSI approved companies for all other aspects of security, and we have recently been in discussion over the introduction of NCP115 and have been assured that it is the standard they are looking to set regarding the installation of Scaffold Alarm Systems.

NCP115 compliant systems are now being requested as standard by many Quantity Surveyors, Property Managers and Local Authorities.

Let’s spread the word… Protect Our Churches

Neal James, Panthera Security



Panthera Group Ltd is a member of our Professional Trades Directory, a listing of over 60 companies and services offering a wide range of trades people who can help you with  any part of your church, chapel or meeting house. 
The use of trade, firm or business names in the Professional Trades Directory is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an endorsement or approval by the National Churches Trust of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable.

56 churches in a Ride+Stride day!

On Ride+Stride Saturday, 13 September 2014, Barney Leeke of  Littleport cycled the length of the Cambridgeshire in aid of the Cambridgeshire Historic Churches Trust. He rode for 94 miles and visited 56 churches in a ride which lasted over 7.5 hours. Below he writes about his amazing achievement which has already raised over £500 for the Cambridgeshire Historic Churches Trust.  Donations are still being accepted at Barney’s Just Giving page 

As a fairly experienced cyclist I thought I should try something challenging for this year’s Ride+Stride, particularly as my parish church of St George, Littleport has received a couple of grants recently. Living to the north of Cambridgeshire I had the idea of cycling the length of the county, from north to south, picking up as many churches as possible on the way. In order to get home again I added on the return leg to Cambridge, finishing at my parents’ parish church of St Martin, Suez Road where I hoped to get a shower and hearty meal before catching the train home.

Barney Leeke - Tydd St Giles

Barney Leeke – Tydd St Giles


The weather forecast for the day was perfect, light cloud and a north-easterly (tail) wind was about as good as conditions could get. I had estimated that the 80 mile route would end up closer to 100 by the time I had detoured to nearby churches on the route, and while I was confident I could manage that in the eight hour time window, collecting over 50 churches was going to add a significant time element. Even a one minute stop at each church would add almost an hour to the journey time, and I wanted to include taking a photo of each main door as a memento. The drive to my starting church was therefore rather apprehensive as 10am rolled by and we were still following slow tractors through the fen roads.

Day in the saddle

Tydd St Giles, the most northerly parish in the county (by my reckoning), and my starting point, was also perhaps the most unusual. The tower of the church sits aloof in the corner of the graveyard, creating its own majestic monument quite apart from the main building. I unpacked my kit from the car and set off for my next stop of Newton in the Isle; such evocative names would be a feature of my day in the saddle.

Bolstered by my wife’s astute purchase of pork pies and a squeezy bottle of honey, the miles rolled under my wheels as I headed south. Churches were few and far between in the sparsely populated fen around Wisbech and I struggled to find them all in the town itself. Cutting my losses I made the decision it was better to complete and pushed onwards. The best haul was in Cottenham where I picked up Anglican, Baptist, Methodist and Salvation Army without ever leaving the main road. Histon was one of the most difficult to find, but I had to stop and ask at the pub in Shepreth so perhaps that should take the accolade of Best Hidden.

Barney  Leeke- St Martin

Barney Leeke- St Martin

St Andrew,  Impington was perhaps the most architecturally stunning, with a beautiful oak and plaster porch, containing a delicious apple pie for cyclists (which has in no way prejudiced my decision). That is of course discounting such novelties as the Round Church and Kings College Chapel in Cambridge, world famous landmarks which found their way onto my list as I flitted through the city on my mission to the most southern parish in the county.

Processions and dog fights

I had to dodge a procession of Elizabethan re-enactors coming through the city, so it wasn’t just the churches which provided the entertainment on the ride. Barton parish church was just waving off a happy wedding couple as I arrived, so I squeezed past the guests to quickly sign on and take my shot. Haslingfield were in the middle of their Scarecrow Festival which included scarecrow Shrek, scarecrow Gruffalo and numerous others on benches, in hedges, up poles or in barrows. Barrington is only a short ride away, but the hill in between is famed for its ferocity and sapped my already weakened legs. They were launching teddies with parachutes from their tower, but the cool church contained the fresh drinks and biscuits I was now craving to keep me going. There were dog fights between antique planes in the skies over Duxford as the air show was in full swing, the roads lined with spectators.

I slipped out of the county for a few miles in order to stay on the quiet roads which were now rolling hills rather than the pan-flat of the fens, slowing my pace considerably. I felt slightly sneaky as I signed on to the Hertfordshire Trust’s sheet in Barley, but just at the top of the next hill I was back in Cambridgeshire, or so the helpful person manning the church assured me, despite the fact they have a Hertfordshire postcode and I was recording my visit on an Essex Trust register!

This was also the high point of my ride, not just because I had completed my mission to ride the length of the county, but because I was at the physically highest point. I had risen nearly 150m from my starting point at sea level, so the ride back to Cambridge was going to be, almost, all downhill. I had a few more churches to collect on the way so stopped at Heydon where a brief history of the church is inscribed above the door, Shelford with its porch-cum-conservatory and Whitlesford’s hidden gem with most cheerful, welcoming helpers.

Journey’s end

I arrived in Cambridge with a little time to spare so I continued collecting, now picking up less architecturally distinctive places of worship as I headed to journey’s end. At five minutes to six I rolled up to St Martin’s, Cambridge to resounding cheers from the young families’ group which were meeting there and my own waiting family. I had completed 94 miles and collected 56 churches in a ride which lasted over 7.5 hours. I’m still collecting sponsorship, but it looks like I will pass the £500 mark by the time it is all in, a figure I never would have thought possible as I started out on this adventure. The only regret is that my headlong rush left so little time to appreciate the beautiful buildings; there are many I will be returning too with more time in my hands.

Barney - Littleport

Inspiring churches and Heritage Open Days

Sarah Holloway
Sarah Holloway


Our Guest Blogger Sarah Holloway, Heritage Open Days Co-ordinator, writes about Heritage Open Days events at churches.

Model making, morris dancers, bubble blowing and a punk rocker. Not things you would usually put together I suspect, but all connected as part of Heritage Open Days events at churches this year.

Once a year this annual festival of heritage and culture offers people an opportunity to see and experience something not normally available, and for the hundreds of faith sites taking part it’s a great chance to open doors to new audiences.

Heritage Open Days

Heritage Open Days

From digging out and displaying your parish registers, to hosting exhibitions of wedding dresses , holding organ recitals or giving people the chance to experience speaking from a pulpit; there is so much that churches can offer visitors. By thinking creatively, involving music, arts and family history, sites can provide a new reason for people to come to the building. And once over the threshold visitors are often amazed at what they find inside – be it stunning architecture, fascinating history, a peaceful haven or a welcoming community – encouraging them to return.

Inspiring highlights

Here are just some of the many inspiring events being held at faith sites across England as part of this year’s Heritage Open Days…

Forever blowing bubbles… St Paul’s Parish Church, Sale, Greater Manchester have organised a wonderfully festive day for visitors. There will be music and dancing as well as tower tours and the parish registers on display. And lots of fun for children too, activities including a dressing up box, a storyteller, and bubble blowing!

Punk rocker turned window designer… Frettenham Church, Norfolk are offering the chance to meet the artist who created their Resurrection window. One of our blog team wrote about this last year (The punk behind the window) and is planning a follow up piece after this year’s event. So a good example, not just of a creative event, but also of using social media and different networks to promote it.

Reading, Heritage Open Days 2012Working on a theme… In Dorking, Surrey, events are taking inspiration from the anniversary of WWI. The Quaker Meeting House has a thought provoking exhibition of artefacts, letters and photographs, focusing on the story of one conscientious objector. They will be engaging children in the story with model making of refugee houses and a soundscape to match a slideshow. Whilst at St Martin’s Church, the local folk club and friends will be taking visitors through a selection of songs, prose and verse from the period.

Working together… Heritage Open Days is well established in Cheetham Hill, Greater Manchester and they use the festival as an opportunity to bring sites and communities together. This year there is a heritage coach tour taking in five different faith sites, a temple a synagogue, a mosque and two churches.

Unsung heroes

These are just a handful of the creative events taking place at faith sites this September. At the heart of all of them though are the brilliant teams of dedicated volunteers. These amazing people should never be underestimated, their passion and enthusiasm can turn the smallest event into the most special day. So a huge thank you to all who take part. And if you aren’t one of them this year, please do go out and support them, maybe you’ll be inspired for next year!

Heritage Open Days take place from 11 – 14 September 2014 .You can search for more events and find out how to get involved at the Heritage Open Days website


Willis Pipe Organ restoration_c2_Anna Page

A unique church in the heart of the City…


Greater London, DOCKLANDS, St Peters Barge

Navigating the urban jungle that is the Docklands area of London is always an interesting experience… surrounded by the huge glass cathedrals of trade and commerce and yet finding constant reminders of the areas heritage, a bustling and world’s largest trading post, with ships from around the globe gathering to trade goods and ideas.

Docklands has an interesting collection of churches worth exploring, built by workers and company owners, and reflecting a range of architectural styles.

However, right at the heart of the area, between Canary Wharf and West India Quay is a unique and yet perfectly formed church, one which both reflects the heritage of the area and provides services to its current and future communities.

St Peter’s Barge is London’s only floating church and hosts a wide range of activities and events.  It’s also well worth a visit to see the very calm and light space that has been created aboard, amongst the hustle and bustle of the area.

To find out more about St Peter’s Barge visit their website


To learn about the history of docklands, view this short BBC film


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