Get ready to discover the architecture and history of 8,000 churches and chapels

8,000 historic churches and chapels in England will open their doors to walkers and cyclists on Ride+Stride Saturday, 14 September 2013.



Ride+Stride is an annual open day which allows visitors to discover the architecture and history of churches and chapels. The majority of churches will welcome visitors between 10.00 am and 6.00 pm.
2013 highlights include:

• A record 97 places of worship open to visitors in London, including for the first time two Hindu temples.
• A chance to visit 14 of Bath’s most beautiful churches in a specially organised church trail
• Discounted ferry tickets to the Isle of Wight, where 43 churches will be open to visit.
• 250 parish churches across the three counties of Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire will welcome Ride+Stride visitors as part of a Festival of Churches with events including graveyard tours, afternoon teas and organ recitals.

Ride+Stride is the main annual fundraising event for historic churches and chapels. Many people who take part are sponsored for every place of worship they visit on foot, by cycle, horse or even in some cases by mobility scooter or canoe. Other visitors simply leave a donation in the church.

The event started in Suffolk in 1982 and since then over £30 million has been raised to support the repair of churches, with thousands of people enjoying a day out whilst raising funds to help preserve their local heritage. With £1.4 million successfully raised in 2012, the fundraising target for 2013 is £1.5 million

Ride+Stride is supported by the National Churches Trust, and organised locally by County Churches Trusts. A national Ride+Stride website provides full information and links to local and regional events. Full details

The Rt Rev Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury and Trustee of the National Churches Trust said:
“Ride+Stride is a wonderful way to discover the churches and chapels that lie at the heart of our heritage and landscape. With around 8,000 churches and chapels open to welcome visitors, there is no better way to discover the history and architecture of the churches which form the centrepiece of so many of our cities, towns and villages.”

“Ride+Stride is also a great way to raise money to support the repair and maintenance of historic churches and chapels. It is crucial to keep church buildings in good repair – if a roof leaks, then the building gets damaged and you get an even bigger problem.”

“So please encourage your friends and family to join you on this fun day out and help raise money for your local churches and chapels and the County Churches Trust that support them. It doesn’t matter if you raise £2, £20 or £200. Every penny raised means you will help protect some of our most beautiful and historic churches and chapels.”

Access means churches need to be open and welcoming

‘Access to Places of Worship in the 21st Century’ was the theme of the 2013 Historic Churches Liaison Group Conference, held at St Chad’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Birmingham on 16 May 2013.
Copy (2) of HCLG 2013 060Over 60 delegates from Local Church Trusts around the country attended and heard from an impressive line-up of speakers about the many different meanings of the word ‘access’. You can see photos from the Conference on our flickr site .

Ian Morrison, from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) was the key-note speaker. The HLF now administers the Places of Worship funding stream. Applications for grants from this funding stream now need to take into account two outcomes: i) ensuring that heritage is in a better physical condition and ii) ensuring that more people and a wider range of people engage with that heritage.

This means that churches seeking HLF funding may need to create new ways for people to visit and understand a church by, for example, providing new guide books or digital interpretation tools. This has the potential to really help churches attract more visitors. You can download Ian’s presentation as a Power Point. Ian Morrison – Heritage Lottery Fund Presentation May 13

Heritage and architecture

Access increasingly means bringing more people into contact with places of worship. The latest census results indicate that although considerable numbers of people do still attend church, fewer people call themselves Christians. This is, in marketing speak, an ‘opportunity’ as there is a growing pool of people who have never been in these ‘strange buildings’ called churches .

This opportunity to ‘market’ the heritage and architecture of churches, and also tell the story of Christianity in these islands has been seized on by Stuart Beattie, from the Scottish Churches Trust (SCT.) He told delegates that the SCT’s ‘Pilgrim Journey’ initiative is proving extremely popular.

This national network of pilgrim routes focuses on the wish of both visitors and local communities to be able to access church buildings in a meaningful way – whether the visit be occasioned by spiritual or heritage motivation or both.

You can discover Pilgrim Journey on a dedicated website. Maybe an idea like this could spread south of the border and become a one stop shop for church heritage?

One of the most powerful talks was by Philippa Woodcraft from the Through the Roof charity. Philippa is blind from birth and she explained to delegates that many places of worship still have physical access issues which prevent people with disabilities getting into and around the building.

But an equal problem in some places of worship is the way in which people with disabilities are treated when visiting. Sadly, a few are still less than welcoming. Perhaps this is simply due to embarrassment or not knowing the right thing to do to assist someone with a disability? Luckily help is at hand from charities such as Through the Roof and more details about their work can be found on their website.

New Chairman will build on success

John Mills (l), Devon Historic Churches Trust the new Chairman of the Historic Churches Liaison Group with Tim Bridges, the outgoing Chairman

John Mills (l), Devon Historic Churches Trust the new Chairman of the Historic Churches Liaison Group with Tim Bridges, the outgoing Chairman

During the conference, Tim Bridges, who for four years has chaired the Historic Churches Liaison Group, handed over the reigns to John Mills, who is also Chairman of the Devon Historic Churches Trust. Tim also announced a change of name for the Group, which in future will be called the Churches Trust Form. The plan is to build on the success of the HCLG, ensure representation and input from all parts of the country and to make sure that the voices and needs of County and Local Church Trusts are properly represented to decision makers involved in the care and management of places of worship.

St Chad’s Roman Catholic Cathedral

Canon Edward Stewart, showing delegates around St Chad's Roman Catholic Cathedral

Canon Edward Stewart, showing delagates around St Chad’s Roman Catholic Cathedral

The day was rounded off with a fascinating tour around St Chad’s Roman Catholic Cathedral by Canon Edward Stewart. St Chad’s was the first Catholic cathedral erected in England after the Reformation and designed by Augustus Welby Pugin In the 1960s, a number of the fittings, including Pugin’s rood screen, were removed and one can sense their absence. (The rood screen was re-erected in the Anglican parish church of Holy Trinity, Reading.) But the Cathedral is well worth a visit, not least to see St Edward’s Chapel, designed by Pugin’s grandson, Sebastian Pugin Powell.The chapel windows depict the fascinating history of the relics of St Chad.

PS. The Conference was supported by the National Churches Trust and thanks must go to Alison Pollard, Grants Officer, and to Suzy Minett and Georgina Rogerson for their hard work in making for such a successful and productive day.

HRH The Duke of Gloucester visits National Churches Trust funded east London churches

HRH The Duke of Gloucester KG GCVO has visited three east London churches which have been awarded significant grants by the National Churches Trust. The visits to St John on Bethnal Green, St John of Jerusalem, Hackney and Memorial Community Church, Plaistow took place on Wednesday 24 April as part of the National Churches Trust’s 60th anniversary year celebrations.

HRH The Duke of Gloucester KG GCVO and The Revd Andrew Wilson, Rector of St John of Jerusalem, Hackney, London

HRH The Duke of Gloucester KG GCVO and The Revd Andrew Wilson, Rector of St John of Jerusalem, Hackney, London

HRH The Duke of Gloucester, who read architecture at Magdalene College, Cambridge, and who was formerly a partner in a firm of London architects, is Vice Patron of the National Churches Trust.
A selection of photos of the visit can be downloaded on our flickr site

The three churches visited by HRH The Duke of Gloucester were:

St John on Bethnal Green, Tower Hamlets, which since 2005 has received funding of £54,000 from the National Churches Trust for roof and tower repairs and re-wiring. St John on Bethnal Green, listed Grade I, is by the great Georgian architect, Sir John Soane, and was consecrated in 1828. It occupies a commanding position at the head of Bethnal Green Road and is a landmark for the whole area.

The church seeks to combine dignified traditional worship with a commitment to social justice and an engagement with contemporary arts. St John’s has been listed in The Guardian newspaper as one of the top five cultural highlights of the East End because of its mixture of spirituality and art.

HRH the Duke of Gloucester was shown around St John on Bethnal Green by Rector Alan Green, who is also Tower Hamlets Borough Chaplain and the Bishop of Stepney’s Inter Faith Adviser.

St John of Jerusalem, Hackney, which since 2007 has received funding of £65,000 from the National Churches Trust for roof and stone repairs. St John of Jerusalem is a grade II* church by Hakewill. Neo-gothic in style, it was built of sandy limestone that has been crumbling ever since it was consecrated in 1848.The church helps to provide a winter night shelter for homeless people and hosts concerts and a wide range of other events.

HRH The Duke of Gloucester was shown around St John of Jerusalem by the Revd Andrew Wilson, who has been Rector since January 2009. (Richard Gloucester is Grand Prior of the world-wide Venerable Order of St John of Jerusalem, the Anglican ‘equivalent’ of the Order of Malta of which the Queen is Sovereign.

Memorial Community Church, Plaistow, Newham which since 2007 has received funding of £60,000 from the National Churches Trust for the installation of toilets and improved access and for repairs to brickwork, rainwater goods and windows.

The Memorial Baptist Church building was opened in 1922 to house the church and its welfare work. The architect was William Hayne. In the East tower there is a unique chime of ten pealing bells cast by Gillett and Johnston of Croydon in 1925. The names of 169 men from the church and local community who were killed in the First World War of 1914-1918 are cast on the bells.The church works extensively with the local community through projects such as Bridges and youth work, and links with other groups such as Alternatives’ We Are Family Project and Transform Newham’s group of four churches in Plaistow.HRH The Duke of Gloucester was shown around Memorial Community Church, by Rev Mark Janes.

Claire Walker, Chief Executive of the National Churches Trust said: “For 60 years we have been helping churches, chapels and meeting houses stay open. Since 1953 we have given over 12,000 grants and loans, worth £85 million at today’s prices., to fund urgent repairs and modernisation of places of worship throughout the United Kingdom.. We were honoured by the visit of HRH The Duke of Gloucester KG GCVO to three east London churches we have funded and were able to show him how our support is helping to secure their future.”

Also taking part in the visit were: Lt Col Alastair Todd, Private Secretary and Comptroller to TRH The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, Luke March DL, Chairman National Churches Trust, Claire Walker, Chief Executive National Churches Trust, Jennie Page CBE, Trustee National Churches Trust, John Maudslay, The Mercers’ Company Church Committee ,Georgina Nayler, Director The Pilgrim Trust and Michael Elks, Partner RadcliffesLeBrasseur.

Keeping your church open and secure

In a guest posting, Mike Hayward of Ecclesiastical Insurance explains how it is possible to ensure the security of your place of worship whilst offering hospitality to people for whom this might make all the difference to their lives.

If any building should operate an ‘open door’ policy, it’s a church. Unfortunately, crime figures suggest that an open door to an empty church is an invitation to less-than-welcome visitors. However, there are things that you can do to protect your church and its contents and still keep the church open to the community.



At a recent conference looking at the problem of theft from churches, one crime reduction officer said: “My advice would be to lock up everything.” Ecclesiastical endorses that advice, but adds the caveat,
“except the front door”.

Keeping churches open outside of services of worship is a vital element in the link they have with the community they serve. An open door enables people to find a quiet place to pray, it offers somewhere to sit and think, and it enables visitors to the area to enjoy any historical treasures you may have.

A steady flow of legitimate visitors also helps deter those with criminal intent. If you can, try to have someone on duty in the church at all times by having a rota of church sitters, or organise cleaning, grass cutting and other routine activities so that there is someone in the church or churchyard for as much of the time as possible. If that is not realistic, you may be able to achieve a compromise by organising set hours when volunteers are available,which can be displayed on the door.

Alarm systems

Remember though that someone left on their own could be at risk, so you need to have measures in place for their personal safety. Ideally, church sitters should work in teams of two, they need to have some form of communication such as a mobile phone, and consideration should be given to providing personal attack alarms connected to an alarm system. There also needs to be someone readily available to respond to an alarm call.

All portable valuables should be marked with an Ecclesiastical-approved forensic marker such as SmartWater, and associated signage should be displayed prominently outside the church to deter thieves. Lock away in a safe as many valuable and portable items as possible – certainly any silverware and also, if possible, brass and pewter items as these metals also have a value to thieves. The vestry can be used as a lockable area for smaller items of furniture and furnishings. To reduce the risk of arson, anything that could be used to start or feed a fire should be removed or locked away.

If a theft does occur, recovery is very much easier if there are photographs of all valuables and portable furniture. Keep two sets of photographs, one in the safe and one in a safe place away from the church.

Community presence

Making the church building a focal point for the wider community can be a way not only of attracting visitors, but also of having people on site whose presence will deter thieves. In communities where local facilities are scarce or non-existent, some churches are playing their part by hosting activities such as post offices, village shops and even farmers’markets.

One such is St Giles, Langford in the Diocese of Chelmsford which has opened a small village shop in its vestry. The vision behind the project was to make the church more accessible to people, to provide a service for the village and to enable parishioners to get to know other people in the community.

It has brought villagers together and the church has benefited from an increased number of visitors. Although complex to instigate, projects such as this do have the knock-on benefit of the broader community developing a stronger commitment to their parish church and also helping ensure its security because they feel a greater sense of involvement and ownership.

There are many ways of ensuring the security of your church whilst offering hospitality to people for whom this might make all the difference to their lives.

For more information, please contact Mike Hayward at

As a guest blogger, Mike Hayward’s views do not necessarily reflect those of the National Churches Trust

The case of the missing visitor information

Open or closed

Open or closed

At the National Churches Trust we sometimes hear from people who find it difficult to find information about when a church is open for visitors. In writing an article about a number of historic churches, I have recently experienced for myself just how difficult it is to find visitor information online about churches.

I won’t name the individual churches concerned, but one is certainly a national landmark and the other three are of considerable historic interest.

The national landmark church has an impressive website. But although there was plenty of information about times of services, rightly so for a major place of worship, there was no information provided about when the church opened or closed. A potential visitor is left assuming that the church may be open from 9 -5 seven days a week. But perhaps it is from 8 – 6, and what if times are different in winter or there is one day of the week when the church is closed? There is, of course, the option of phoning the church, but why is basic information on opening times not provided online?

So, when is your church open?

For the other more minor churches, two did not have their own websites. That is of course excusable, as websites do take time to manage and keep up to date. As these were Church of England churches, information was available from the CofE ‘A Church Near You’ website. But this website mainly provides information for church-goers as opposed to church visitors and therefore lists service times and not opening hours. Maps on this site show the location of churches. However, address and postcode information is hard to find as it is provided in a tiny font size at the bottom of a page – almost looking like a footer it is therefore easy to miss. A useful guide to one of these churches is provided by a website about historic churches, but again there is no information on when this particular church is open.

Walks and refreshments

Searching for the fourth church online produced a full page of results. Administrative information was provided on the local diocesan website, together with a useful history of the parish. But again, although service times were listed, there was no information provided on opening times for church crawlers. An even better page for this church was provided by a local history society. This included a list of transport options for those wanting to travel by car, bus or train. The page even suggested a walk which including the church and other local attractions and also suggested ideas of places to go for refreshments. But, perhaps not surprisingly, there was no information about when the church  might be open.

Perhaps I am expecting too much. Churches are of course places of worship, and service times may well be the most important information which they should provide online. But increasing numbers of people are interested in discovering the history, art and architecture of churches. Yes, some of these will be happy to travel blind in the hope that a church will be open. But there are many others who will be put off visiting a church if they can’t find basic details about opening times and travel information.

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