Churches to visit in England, recommended by Bill Bryson

Date Posted: 29/03/2017

Travel writer Bill Bryson has revealed a list of his favourite UK churches to visit. Here we focus on a select six that make for great additions to any group itinerary. 

1. Durham Cathedral

Set in the heart of Durham, Durham Cathedral is an impressive example of Romanesque architecture. 

The cathedral is said to have the most intact set of surviving Medieval monastic buildings in the UK. The beautiful exterior is matched by its picturesque interior, and groups will be spoilt for choice when it comes to photographic opportunities. 

Don’t miss Open Treasures, an exhibition which is home to a number of fascinating relics and artefacts related to St Cuthbert, the cathedral’s saint.

2. Hexham Abbey

Pictured: Hexham Abbey, Northumberland.

The original church of Hexham Abbey in Northumberland is believed to have been on the site for around 1,300 years, but the church that can be seen today is based on the Augustinian priory, which is thought to have been built between the years 1170 and 1250. 

There is plenty to see when taking a stroll around the church, including cultural and historical artefacts which have been put on display for visitors to view and learn from. 

The abbey welcomes group visits and can cater for up to 100 people, with guided tours and personal talks and demonstrations available. The Refectory Café at the abbey can also prepare special meals and menus for groups visiting.

3. St Michael's Cornhill

Pictured: St Michael's Cornhill, London.

St Michael’s Cornhill in London sits on the remains of the Basilica which would have been the northern part of the Roman Forum built in the first century AD. It stands near the site of a church founded in AD 179, which is believed to be the oldest site of Christian worship in London.

For groups on a historical trip to London, St Michael’s Cornhill is a great site to spot and allows visitors to look around and take in its atmosphere. Being located in Greater London, it poses as an option for combining with visits to other London sites.

4. Cartmel Priory

Pictured: Cartmel Priory, Cumbria.

Visitors to the Lake District can include a trip into the village of Cartmel where you’ll find St Mary and St Michael; also known as Cartmel Priory. The church somewhat overshadows the village, giving visitors an idea of how early priories would have dominated their surroundings. The church was founded around 1189 for Augustinian canons but also served as a parish church.

For groups, guided tours of the priory are available and different events take place throughout the year which groups are welcome to experience.

5. St Martin-in-the-Fields

Pictured: St Martin-in-the-Fields, London.

This church, located in Trafalgar Square, is another choice for groups heading to London and could be combined with the aforementioned St Michael’s Cornhill. It’s an English Anglican church dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours, and there has been a church on the site since the Medieval period.

The Café in the Crypt offers visitors a place to grab a bite to eat. Guided tours for groups can be arranged and a self-guided Children’s Trail is offered for those travelling with youngsters.

Also located at St Martin-in-the-Fields is an art gallery and exhibition which displays both old and contemporary art as well as photography.

6. Christchurch Priory

Pictured: Christchurch Priory, Dorset.

Christchurch Priory in Dorset is believed to have been built in 1094 by Ranulf Flambard who was a chief minister of King William II. The building work took place on the site of an old Saxon Priory and work continued to develop under Flambard’s successors until a basic Norman church was constructed. 

During the dissolution of the monasteries, it is said that King Henry VIII wanted to have the church pulled down, however after the townspeople pleaded for it to be kept, it was gifted to them.

Group visiting today can enjoy the countryside setting that Christchurch has to offer. There is a choice of four different tours that visitors can take, which can include bell ringing demonstrations, viewing Medieval paintings, and views from the tower.

All of these churches plus many others feature on ExploreChurches, a new church tourism website for the UK.

A special page featuring the full list of Bill Bryson’s 14 favourite churches can be found at www.nationalchurchestrust.org.

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