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I recently spent a few days in Ilfracombe, a hilly town blessed with 3 Anglican churches, all of them open each day.

St. Philip & St. James, Ilfracombe


‘Pip and Jim’s’ or ‘The Harbour Church’ is in a prominent position in the popular harbour area of Ilfracombe. There is a welcome sign outside and it is a church well worth looking into. Inside, I found some good prayer ideas set out with some prayer ribbons to use (to remember loved ones) and some things to take away and a book in which prayers can be put – all placed in a prominent position.


Children’s work was also displayed and this is a church which actively prays for the town – there was a display about this too. There were 40 + entries in the visitors book for October so far.


All in all an interesting church to visit. The church website at – doesn’t have any visitor info on it.

St. Peter’s, Ilfracombe


St. Peter’s sits high above the town and it is quite a climb up to it! Again, there is a welcome board outside. Inside, there is a flexible space which gets used for all sorts of events as well as for worship.


St. Peter’s has a ministry of praying for peace and there is a good display about this with some prayers to take away. There was also a good welcome leaflet as well as one about the stations of the cross to be found here. A prayer board and votive stand are both well used.


There is a website at but it is still under construction and doesn’t have much on it. St. Peter’s is a church that is well worth a look.

Holy Trinity, Ilfracombe


Holy Trinity is also open each day. There is some building work going on at the moment there. Again, there is a welcome board outside. Inside there is a guide book @ £2 and some post cards for sale. Some ‘bats’ giving details of the church and some cards also to carry about. One interesting feature here is that the loose leaf visitors book asks for suggestions on how the church could develop it’s ministry to visitors. I have not seen this done before. It is also placed on a table in the porch so you can’t ignore it!


This is a very good idea and shows that this church takes it’s visitors very seriously.


There is a good prayer display again (with a focus on bereavement and remembering) with some leaflets and prayer ideas to take away. Also a votive stand to use. The church website at has clear visitor information.


It is so refreshing to find a town in which all the churches are open for visitors. It is often just one of two. Each church is worth a visit and they are all holy places which are available for the pilgrim, tourist or local who just wants some time with God.



St. John’s, West Bay

St. John’s, West Bay, Dorset


St.John’s is a relatively modern church, only dating from 1936. It is right at the heart of the small and increasingly popular community of West Bay. It is open every day although it could probably do with a sign outside to direct people in.


It is a lovely little church with a definite nautical theme! – as befits the situation it is in next to the small harbour. I counted 44 entries in the visitors book this month so far. There is an open Bible and lots of ship models about. A ‘Fisherman’s Mission’ display is well thought out.


A pebble pool can be used for prayers…


But there could do with being somewhere for people to leave prayer requests. The church website is at and visitors are welcomed and acknowledged as being important.


This is a wonderful little church in a great spot.

St. Leonard’s, Southminster

St. Leonard’s, Southminster


Southminster is a sleepy little town dominated by the bulk of St. Leonard’s. It is unfortunately locked which seems hard to understand in a place like this. The church website is at but doesn’t give anything away about being open! The church also features one of my pet hates, this sign…


Assuming it is not meant to express irony, it is hard to see how a locked church building offers much of a welcome….

St. Mary the Virgin Burnham on Crouch

St. Mary the Virgin, Burnham on Crouch


This is a lovely church in the delightful small town of Burnham on Crouch. The church was open and provides a peaceful and cool place. It is well signed and easy to find with a welcome notice as well as advertising their Messy Church.


There is a good selection of leaflets available here covering worship, baptisms, weddings and funerals. These are very well written and fulfil a need. There is a guide on sale and a selection of greetings cards as well as mugs, pens, bookmarks, key fobs and tea towels. Some 7 people had put entries in the visitor’s book in the last month. There is also information about the Guild of All Souls (see for details of this).


What is good about this church is the thought that has gone into enabling prayer. Not only is there information about the Guild of Souls, but there is a nice votive stand set in the Chapel of St. Catherine of Alexandria with prayer request cards.


One thing that caught my eye was this sign—-


I have never seen this done before. Here is a church which takes the lectionary seriously! The church website is at which has a lot of information on it but could do with something specifically about visitors.

St. James the Less, Hadleigh (Essex)

St. James the Less, Hadleigh


I have been staying in London for a few days. It has been very hot so it was good to escape to the Essex countryside today and explore a few places, one of which was Hadleigh. A bustling place on the busy A13. It was unfortunately locked – as many churches seem to be in Essex. There is a church website at which doesn’t give any details of when the church might be open outside of service times. All rather disappointing.


The Church Tourism Study

Welcome to the website of the Church Tourism Study. Here you will find details of some of the churches I have visited so far about 700 now.DSCN0510

The aim of this study is to gain an idea of what is being provided for the many visitors to or churches. This seems to be a growing phenomena and many churches are surprised at just how many visitors they are getting. Our Monday to Saturday congregation is often much bigger than our Sunday one but the provision churches are making for their visitors is patchy. Some are very good and some are very poor. You will find examples of all these here.  There is a bias towards the south of the country because of where I live. The Church Tourism Study is now located in Dorset.

My latest project is a survey of the churches of Hertfordshire and you can find some of these entries here, not all churches I have visited are put on this site. This has been very enjoyable with some interesting churches in this often overlooked county.

In addition, I have been busy sending out questionnaires to several hundred churches up and down the country. This has been providing some fascinating  information about what is actually happening. All this information is being written up for a book on visitor ministry.

I hope that you enjoy looking at my reports and pictures. All opinions expressed are my own. It has never been my intention to denigrate churches but it has become obvious that many could do an awful lot better in this area. It is not hard and the benefits in ministering to our visitors are enormous.Do comment if you wish to or get in touch at

St. Peter & St. Paul, Blandford Forum

St. Peter & St. Paul, Blandford Forum


It is always good to be able to report good news. I had visited this church before and found it locked which was a shame in a place like Blandford. However, it is now open and is welcoming and a very interesting place to visit. A large and imposing Georgian building which dominates the centre of the small town.


The door was open, with a simple sign ‘Open for Prayer’. Inside it was cool and peaceful with a well signposted prayer area. There was a simple guide to the church (the larger guide book is out of print and being revised) and some postcards, prayer cards and other cards for sale. It was interesting to look at the prominent visitors book and the comments put in it – all of them appreciative. There were 33 this month already.


The prayer area is well thought out with prayer books and other resources to help people to pray as well as a bowl with stones (with a provocative notice ‘Just let it go’) and a prayer tree and candles to light. This all looked well used which is excellent and shows how a parish church can reach out to those around by just being there and being available.


This is a church which is undergoing much needed repairs and there is literature  about this and a website at which is worth look at, as well as an active facebook page at


They deserve a lot of support to keep this historic building in good repair as well as ministering to the community. There is a website for the church at which doesn’t say much, however it is only temporary so, hopefully, there will be some visitor information on the new one. Be that as it may, go and have a look at this lovely church!