Visiting historic churches - is the church open?Posted: 2013-01-09
As anyone who has browsed around the Britain Express website will know, we enjoy visiting historic churches. I'm a huge fan of medieval architecture in particular, and enjoy nothing more than poking my nose into a medieval country church.
But anyone who has ever visited churches on even a casual basis will know, you can't always guarantee that a church will be open when you arrive. You'll know all about that sinking feeling when you try to pull the door handle of an aged oak door, dark with history, and realise that it won't budge. You search in the porch for notices of nearby keyholders, but all you find are weather-worn copies of diocesan events and an outdated flower rota.
What to do?
Well, I can't guarantee that you'll never arrive to find a church you especially wanted to visit is shut tight, but I can suggest a few things I find myself doing when I plan a trip, and hopefully these will help minimise the chances you will be disappointed.
1. Visit the church website (if it has one!)
Some websites will say, right there on the home page, that they welcome visitors and the door is always open. Some will state specific opening days and times when visitors are welcome. Unfortunately the vast majority of church websites don't have any information on opening times, or even a clear statement on whether visitors are welcome at all outside service times. You might surmise that if a church doesn't state they are open then the building will be locked, but actually this is often not true and you are no wiser.
How do you find the church website in the first place? Well, one useful place to look is our next resource - Achurchnearyou.
2. Visit the Achurchnearyou website.
This is the official gathering place of information on Anglican churches. Not always easy to navigate, achurchnearyou contains a wealth of information if you are persistent. Just how much information depends on someone from each church taking the time to enter that information into the achurchnearyou database, so there are certainly gaps, but it is still incredibly valuable. Many church listings have linbks to an official church website.
What about opening times you ask? Each church listing has an About Us blurb, which may state opening hours. If not, click on Features and Facilities and look for the Open Door symbol.
I should point out from experience that the lack of an open door symbol like this one does not mean the church is shut, but if you see the symbol you know the church makes an effort to be open to visitors!
3. Your third resource is a delightfully helpful website, the Atlas of Open Churches. This wonderful resource lists over 7000 churches in over 30 English counties. It isn't an official resource, and doesn't cover the entire country - yet - but its still a treasure trove of useful information about which churches you can expect to be locked and which are generally open.