Opportunities to explore Britain’s fascinating Church heritage this September

The UK’s Churches Conservation Trust, the national charity protecting historic churches, is inviting visitors to explore Britain’s rich church heritage as part of this year’s Heritage Open Days from September 12 to September 15.

Over the four days, the Trust will give visitors the chance to revel in the architectural wonder and fascinating history of a variety of Medieval, Tudor, Georgian and Victorian churches. Included in CCT’s tour are St Edmund’s Church, Rochdale, regarded as ‘Britain’s greatest Masonic secret’ and St James’ Church in Cameley, Somerset, described as ‘Rip Van Winkle’s church’.

One of the best examples of ecclesiastical architecture, St Edmund’s Church has been compared to the Medieval Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland – the setting for Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code. While St James’ was described by poet, John Betjeman, as ‘Rip Van Winkle’s Church,’ as it has been in a virtually untouched sleep for centuries and is home to a series of 12th to 17th century wall paintings described as decorative, figurative, imitative and didactic.

Travellers can also visit the partly ruined Holy Trinity Church in Wentworth, South Yorkshire, which began life as a church in the 15th century, but was converted to a mausoleum in 1877. Its 16th and 17th century features trace back to the influential Wentworth family, including the Earl of Strafford and Charles Watson-Wentworth.

The Church of Saint Thomas a Becket, Capel, Kent, a redundant Anglican church where Thomas a Becket is said to have preached, will host a music and arts festival displaying Medieval wall paintings, including Cain and Abel and Christ’s Entry to Jerusalem.

St. Oswald’s Church, Kirk Sandall, South Yorkshire, will organise craft activities for children and an exhibition on local history for parents. The Norman church features 13th century arcades, striking stained glass and exquisitely carved screens.

Another heritage site open for visitors this year is the picturesque Saint George’s Church, Esher, Surrey, built around 1540, which has elaborate 18th century carvings, a three-deck pulpit and a pew designed by the Blenheim Palace architect, John Vanbrugh. The Church will also house the North Downs Botanical Artists Exhibition during the Heritage Open Days.

Archivist, Stuart Sizer, will host a guided walk around the intricate church site of St. Mary’s, Barnetby, Lincolnshire, while at St John’s Church, Lincolnshire, visitors can view a demonstration of the age-old practice of Collyweston slating.

The Churches Conservation Trust has saved over 340 beautiful buildings, which attract almost two million visitors a year. The CCT collection includes unique examples of architecture, archaeology and art from 1,000 years of English history.