Church of England parish church

A parish church in the Church of England is the church which acts as the religious centre for the people within each Church of England parish (the smallest and most basic Church of England administrative unit; since the 19th century sometimes called the ecclesiastical parish, to avoid confusion with the civil parish which many towns and villages have).

The parish church of St. Lawrence at Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire, England (pictured 2003)
Combe Martin parish church (St. Peter ad Vincula), North Devon, England (pictured 2004)

Parishes in England

In England, there are parish churches for both the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church. References to a "parish church", without mention of a denomination, will, however, usually be to those of the Church of England due to its status as the Established Church. This is generally true also for Wales, although the Church in Wales is dis-established.

The Church of England is made up of parishes, each one forming part of a diocese. Almost every part of England is within both a parish and a diocese (there are very few non-parochial areas and some parishes not in dioceses). These ecclesiastical parishes are often no longer the same as the civil parishes in local government. Larger towns and cities, even those with cathedrals, still have ecclesiastical parishes and parish churches.

Each parish is ministered to by a parish priest, usually called a vicar, rector or priest-in-charge. More rarely the parish priest is known as a "perpetual curate". In one instance only the priest is also, by historical custom, officially known as an "archpriest".[1] Each parish usually has one active parish church, though rarely and historically more than one; if there is no parish church, the bishop will usually license another building and may designate it as a Parish Centre of Worship.[2] A parish may also be served by a number of chapels of ease. Unused 'redundant' parish churches may exist in parishes formed by the merging of two or more parishes, or because of the cost of upkeep. These redundant churches may survive as ruins, remain empty, or be converted for alternative uses.[3]

12th-century priest's door and low window of the perish church at Guiting Power, Gloucestershire


Church of England parish churches include some of the oldest churches to be found in England, often built before the 16th-century reformation, and thus predating the division of Western Christianity. A number are substantially of Anglo-Saxon date, and all subsequent periods of architecture are represented in the country. Most parishes have churches that date back to the Middle Ages, though often with many later additions or alterations. The parish churches of the City of London are particularly famous for their Baroque architecture. Each building reflects its status and there is considerable variety in the size and style of parish churches. Some very large former monastic or collegiate churches are now parish churches, not always in their complete original form. As well as their architecture, many Church of England parish churches are known for their interesting and beautiful church fittings which are often remarkable survivals. These may include monuments, hatchments, wall paintings, stained glass, floor tiles, carved pews, choir stalls (perhaps with misericords), lecterns and fonts, sometimes even shrines or vestments.

The Church of England parish church was always fundamental to the life of every community, especially in rural areas. However, by the late 20th and early 21st centuries, with the decline in the number of worshippers and the shortage of Anglican priests, there has been a trend towards team or shared ministries, and many parish churches no longer have a service every Sunday.

Notable parish churches

This is a very incomplete list of notable Church of England parish churches:

Ashmanhaugh, NorfolkSt. SwithinThe smallest round-tower church in the UK
Barton-upon-Humber, North LincolnshireSt Peter's ChurchGood Saxon tower
BedfordSt Paul's churchOn the site of a former ancient minster, the present medieval 'hall church' was the wartime home of the BBC's The Daily Service. Now the county church with a fine Bodley screen and maintains a choral tradition.
Beverley, East Riding of YorkshireBeverley MinsterPerpendicular west front, continuous vault, Percy tomb, Hawksmoor font cover, the largest parish church in England by floor area (3489 m2).
Bodmin, CornwallSt Petroc's ChurchThe church building is late medieval and is the largest parish church in Cornwall.
Boston, LincolnshireSt Botolph's ChurchThe Stump, lantern interior, 52 misericords.
Brent, LondonSt Gabriel's, CricklewoodA New Wine church which is home to an historic organ used in BBC Radio recitals.
BristolSt Mary Redcliffe ChurchTwin porches, Perpendicular interior, 1,200 roof bosses.
Brompton, Kensington, LondonHoly Trinity ("HTB")Evangelical Anglican church where the Alpha course was first developed.
Burford, OxfordshireSt John's ChurchMerchants' guild chapel, Red Indian memorial, Kempe glass.
Bury St Edmunds, SuffolkSt Mary’s ChurchBurial place of Mary Tudor, Queen of France, sister of Henry VIII, second longest aisle of a Parish Church in England. Hammer beam roof with carved angels. Has a traditional robed choir which has existed for hundreds of years.
Canterbury, KentSt Martin'sOldest surviving Church of England parish church of English origin
Christchurch, DorsetChristchurch PrioryNorman exterior, Decorated screen, Perpendicular tombs and chantries.
Cirencester, GloucestershireSt John the Baptist's ChurchPerpendicular porch, fan vaults, merchants' tombs.
City of LondonSt Magnus the MartyrWren church situated at the end of the old London Bridge.
Crediton, DevonCrediton Parish ChurchA former collegiate church which was rebuilt in the 15th century and has some fine monuments.
Culbone, SomersetSt Culbone's ChurchSmallest parish church in England.
DoncasterSt George's Minster"South Yorkshire's most majestic building".
Earls Barton, NorthamptonshireAll Saints' ChurchAn ancient Saxon church famous for its incredible heritage.
Fairford, GloucestershireSt Mary's ChurchComplete set of medieval glass, stone carvings, misericords.
Gawber, BarnsleySt Thomas the Apostle A small church in South Yorkshire
Grantham, LincolnshireSt Wulfram's ChurchSteeple and west front, Decorated tracery, Corbel-table carvings.
Hull, YorkshireHoly Trinity ChurchThe fourth-largest parish church in England by floor area (2473 m2).
Kendal, CumbriaHoly Trinity ChurchClaims to be the widest parish church in England
LeedsMinster and Parish Church of St PeterLeeds has no Anglican cathedral, so the Minster has several administrative functions below those of Bradford, Ripon and Wakefield Cathedrals.
LiverpoolOur Lady and St NicholasLiverpool's 'sailors' church', traditional emigrants' landmark on leaving for the New World
Long Melford, SuffolkHoly Trinity ChurchRichest East Anglian church, Clopton Chantry, Lily Crucifix, medieval glass. An example of a wool church.
Ludlow, Shropshire:St Laurence's ChurchMedieval Palmers' glass, Pietà bench-end, civic tombs.
Maidenhead, BerkshireSt Luke's ChurchLargest church in Maidenhead
Ottery St Mary, DevonMiniature Exeter Cathedral, painted roof, fan-vaulted aisle.
Patrington, East Riding of YorkshireSt Patrick's ChurchOctagonal tower top, Decorated carvings throughout.
Pershore, WorcestershirePershore AbbeyFormer abbey restored by George Gilbert Scott
Plymouth, DevonSt Andrew's Church15th century church rebuilt after the Plymouth Blitz, the largest parish church in Devon.
Selby, North YorkshireSelby AbbeyNorman nave, chancel stiff-leaf, east window tracery with medieval glass.
Sherborne, DorsetSherborne AbbeyComplete fan vault, carved bosses, misericords.
Tewkesbury, GloucestershireTewkesbury AbbeyNorman nave, 'Sun of York' bosses, Despenser tombs, medieval glass.
Walpole St Peter, NorfolkSt Peter's ChurchNave woodwork, font cover, 'bolt-hole' tunnel.
Warwick, WarwickshireSt Mary's ChurchBeauchamp Chapel and tombs.
Westminster, LondonAll Saints, Margaret StreetAnglo-Catholic shrine.
Westminster, LondonSt Margaret'sThe parish church of the British Houses of Parliament

See also


  1. Haccombe in Devon. Notes and Queries, no.321
  2. "Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011, s.43". Retrieved 9 October 2015.
  3. Lichfield Diocese Archived 16 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  • Pevsner, N.; et al. (1951–74). The Buildings of England (46 vols.). Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
  • Jenkins, Simon (1999). England's Thousand Best Churches. photog. Paul Barker. London: Allen Lane. ISBN 0-7139-9281-6.
  • Morris, Richard (1989). Churches in the Landscape. London: J. M. Dent & Sons.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.