At the Reformation, in the 1530s, there were in addition to monastic establishments and chapels (and excluding Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) some 46,000 churches in England itself. By 1985 only about half survived. By 2040 AD, according to a Christian Research report dated 2005, it is estimated another 18,000 British churches will have closed.
In England (mainly) and in Ireland, Wales, the USA, France and Spain, there are today over eighty churches (including half a dozen cathedrals) – the vast majority “Church of England” or “Church of Ireland” (i.e. Protestant) containing fascinating Wingfield family memorials: tombs, brasses, effigies, coats of arms, misericords (likenesses in wood), likenesses in stained glass windows or names on patron and incumbent boards, dating from about 1350-1950 (mainly from 1550-1650).
This rich heritage is surely unrivalled by any other family in England, so we are indeed fortunate in the extreme. It is sad to think that within two more generations that Wingfield family members may not be able to visit some of these wonderful churches containing their heritage, or that all that they may see by then of many of these magnificent buildings, if they have not actually been destroyed may be just ruins, or these churches deconsecrated and turned into offices or shops.
In England, it is only feasible to visit those in one county in one day, except for Suffolk – which would take two to four days. All churches in the British Isles are Church of England (Anglican/PE) parish churches except where stated otherwise.
After pay-outs in 1995 to half of Britain’s 16,000 Anglican churches, the 1996 estimate for insurance premiums to cover them all against arson, vandalism or theft, was $9,000,000. Consequently, today a very large number of English churches are, finally and regrettably, locked up, except during services. One parson may serve about four to ten or even more churches, and so many small country churches may only have a service once every two to four weeks.
Cathedrals will be open and free (except for St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey). For country churches details of two key-holders are usually displayed on the porch door or notice-board. It is best that you contact the churches before making your trip to visit these churches to understand when the church is open and if lock if arrangements can be made with the church warden to access.
If you are in an English city (not town), it is safer perhaps to go to or call the Reference Library and ask for Crockford’s Directory. Look up the village name and this will give you the vicar’s name; then look up the vicar’s name in a different section and this will give his telephone number. You’re not finished yet! Call the vicar – evenings are best – and ask for the telephone number and/or address and location of who controls the church key.