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“Churches Unlocked” – First Ever Church Heritage Festival for South Wales

The Royal Commission is pleased to be associated with the first ever Churches Unlocked Heritage festival to be held in south Wales later this week. Our Secretary and Chief Executive, Christopher Catling, Chair of the Welsh Historic Places of Worship Forum, said:
“I applaud this initiative. Wales has great potential for sustainable tourism based on our rich heritage of historic church buildings. I hope this festival will encourage many more churches and chapels to open their doors in future, to welcome visitors and share the qualities that make church, chapel and burial ground such special places.”

“Churches Unlocked”– First Ever Church Heritage Festival for South Wales

Festival details:

Ten historic churches across South Wales will open their doors this month for the first-ever Churches Unlocked Heritage Festival. Churches Unlocked is organised by the Church in Wales Diocese of Llandaff and will run for nine days from Saturday 18 June – Sunday 26 June.

The festival will celebrate the historical importance of churches to Welsh heritage and culture, and champion their role in the local communities as places of spiritual wellbeing and community engagement.

The ten churches have been chosen for their historical importance and hidden histories. For example, true crime fans can discover the 19th-century ‘murder stone’ and find out more about the unsolved murder of Margret Williams in 1822. For those interested in James Bond and spycraft, there’s the monument to a World War II spy-turned-monk.

Visitors can also try their hand at bellringing, designing a stained-glass window, hiking in the countryside, or taking part in eco activities in one of the many green-haven churchyards. There is also opportunity to enjoy traditional church hospitality of homemade cakes and tea.

Sarah Perons, Churches Development Officer and Commissioner at RCAHMW, says “Because of Covid, over the past two years our churches have had to remain closed for much of the time. Our buildings are now open again and we want to encourage churches to take the opportunity to be open and welcoming to visitors. We want to provide a positive and enjoyable post-Covid experience for everyone.

Churches are some of the most important historic buildings in Wales. They are often described as landmarks in place and time. They tell the stories not only of their local communities but also the narrative of the development of art and architecture in a Welsh context.

Social media is full of images of eye-catching church architecture and art, and we know there is considerable public interest in church visiting and tourism.

You don’t need to attend church to have an interest in its local history and architecture. You can appreciate the building as an important and beautiful historical landmark.”

Churches Unlocked hopes to attract people of faith as well as people who may have never visited a church before. By hosting engaging events for all the family, the festival aims to promote church buildings both as places of worship and visitor attractions.

Research carried out on behalf of the National Churches Trust in 2018 showed that a quarter of British adults would be more likely to visit a church building, chapel or meeting house as a leisure activity or tourist attraction if there were visitor-friendly facilities. One in five would be more likely to visit if there were cultural events or if the building was unlocked for visitors.

The majority of the 10 churches taking part in Churches Unlocked Festival are not generally open to visitors. They are:

  1. Llandaff Cathedral, Cardiff, CF5 2LA
  2. St Mary the Virgin, Bute St, Cardiff, CF10 5HB
  3. St Catwg, Cadoxton-juxta-Neath, SA10 8AS
  4. St Thomas, Neath, SA11 3LL
  5. St Michael & All Angels, Llanmihangel, Vale of Glamorgan, CF71 7LQ
  6. St Theodore, Port Talbot, SA13 1LE
  7. St Cynwyd, Llangynwyd, Maesteg, CF34 9SB
  8. St Michael & All Angels, Beddau, Llantrisant, CF38 2BE
  9. St Andrew, St Andrews Major, Vale of Glamorgan, CF64 4HD
  10. St John the Baptist, Troedyrhiw, Merthyr, CF48 4EX

Churches Unlocked launches on Saturday 18 June at Llandaff Cathedral and features Alys Huws, official harpist to the Prince of Wales, young musicians from the award-winning ‘Making Music Changing Lives’ project in Ely, Cardiff, as well as Cathedral tower tours, eco-fun for children in the churchyard and a stained-glass design workshop.

Churches Unlocked takes place Saturday 18 – Sunday 26 June. For more information visit:
‘Churches Unlocked’ Festival – LLandaff Diocese (churchinwales.org.uk)

  1. ComRes interviewed 2,037 adults in Great Britain online between 14th – 16th September 2018. https://comresglobal.com/polls/national-churches-trust-visiting-churches-survey/
  2. The diocese of Llandaff is the most populous of all six Dioceses in Wales. It covers an area taking in the west of Cardiff in the east to Neath in the west, and the Heads of the Valleys Road in the north.


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