Irreplaceable: A History of England in 100 Places - Faith & Belief

England is home to a wide range of denominations and faiths. Most of the buildings used for religious worship are Christian churches or chapels but there is also a rich heritage of meeting houses, synagogues, gurdwaras, temples, mandirs and mosques, plus an increasing number of secular buildings now being used by faith groups. This selection of images from the Historic England Archive shows the wealth and variety of buildings of faith and belief that can be found in England.

Scargill Chapel, Scargill House, Kettlewell with Starbotton, North Yorkshire (2010-07-21) by James O Davies, English HeritageHistoric England


Places of worship make a huge impact on our built environment. Almost half of all of England's Grade I listed buildings are places of worship. This means that their historic and architectural significance make a massive contribution to the nation's heritage. This exhibit features photographs from the collections of the Historic England Archive. It reveals a tiny fraction of the many forms of buildings, old and new, that have been built or adapted for religious worship and ceremony, and illustrates the numerous faiths and denominations that have created them.  

The font and nave, Salisbury Cathedral, Salisbury, Wiltshire (2009-09-15) by James O Davies, English HeritageHistoric England

Church of England

The Church of England is the state church and is the largest Christian denomination in England.

The origins of Christianity in England date back to the 1st century AD. Its fortunes fluctuated and it was not until the Norman Conquest in the 11th century that the power of the Christian church in England was firmly established.

In the 15th century the Reformation in England brought about the creation of the Church of England when desires for religious reform, and the actions of King Henry VIII, resulted in the church's divorce from the Pope and Roman Catholicism.

Salisbury Cathedral
Salisbury Cathedral is one of forty-two Church of England cathedrals. It dates from the 13th century and its setting is considered to be one of the finest in England.

St Paul's Cathedral, City of London, Greater London (2013-04-30) by James O Davies, English HeritageHistoric England

Church of England

St Paul's Cathedral, City of London
Sir Christopher Wren's masterpiece was built between 1675 and 1710. It replaced a medieval cathedral that was destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666.

Built mainly of Portland stone, it is designed in a classical style. It was the first cathedral to be built in England following the Reformation.

Although damaged during the Second World War, images of its survival of the ferocity of the Blitz came to symbolise national resilience and resistance.

Westminster Cathedral, Ashley Place, City of Westminster, Greater London (1896/1900) by York & SonHistoric England

Roman Catholicism

England was a Catholic country until 1534. While the Reformation established the Church of England, Roman Catholicism was able to continue despite various forms of persecution.

Periods of tolerance and persecution followed but from the late 18th century Acts of Parliament legalised Catholic worship and improved Catholic civil rights, and established an Archbishop (for Westminster) and twelve bishops.

Westminster Cathedral
The Metropolitan Cathedral Church of the Most Precious Blood was built as a cathedral for Westminster between 1895 and 1903. It was consecrated in 1910. Built in a Byzantine style, it is constructed in red brick with horizontal bands of Portland stone.

Clifton Cathedral, Pembroke Road, Clifton, Bristol (2013-05-07) by James O Davies, English HeritageHistoric England

Roman Catholicism

Clifton Cathedral, Bristol
There are now nineteen Roman Catholic dioceses in England and each has a cathedral that acts as a mother church.

The Cathedral Church of Saints Peter and Paul in the Clifton district of Bristol was built in 1969-73 to the designs of Ronald Weeks, ES Jennett and Antoni Poremba of the Percy Thomas Partnership. It superceded a 'Pro-Cathedral' that was built in 1830.

Clifton is often described as being the first cathedral in the world whose design corresponds with the liturgical guidelines issued by the Vatican in November 1963.

St Sophia's Cathedral Church, Moscow Road, City of Westminster, Greater London (2010-02-16) by Derek Kendall, English HeritageHistoric England

Greek Orthodox Church

Greek Cathedral of Aghia Sophia, Westminster, London
Saint Sophia, Moscow Road was the fifth Greek church to be built in London. The first near Greek Street in Soho dates from 1677.

Designed by John Oldrid Scott, it was constructed in 1878-9 in a location that was convenient for the Greek communities living in the west London suburbs of Paddington, Bayswater and Notting Hill.

The cathedral is based on a Greek cross plan with a central copper-clad dome. The interior is richly decorated with marble, mosaics and polychrome brickwork. The tessellated floor includes a double-headed eagle design, the traditional emblem of Byzantium.

Ferrybridge Power Station and the Church of St Edward, Brotherton, North Yorkshire (1953/1980) by Eric de MaréHistoric England

Church of England

Church of St Edward the Confessor, Brotherton, North Yorkshire
Parish churches in England are often the oldest surviving buildings in their locality and are often located in picturesque settings. Predominantly named after Christian saints they are a focus of a community from birth until death.

The Church of St Edward the Confessor in Brotherton, North Yorkshire can't claim to be the oldest building in its parish, it was built 1842, and its setting was dramatically changed with the construction of the nearby Ferrybridge Power Station.

Former Church of All Saints, Thrupp, Brimscombe and Thrupp, Gloucestershire (2000-11-01) by James O Davies, English HeritageHistoric England

Church of England

Former Church of All Saints, Thrupp, Gloucestershire
Built in 1899, this brick and corrugated iron chapel offered a quick and cheap option for its congregation. When built, it was roofed with heather.

It cost £1,000 to build and could accommodate 250 worshipers.

The inclusion of timber and leaded glass Gothic-style windows, and simple cross motif in the gable adds the the chapel's ecclesiastical form.

Welsh Baptist Chapel, Eastcastle Street, City of Westminster, Greater London (2014-08-23) by Chris Redgrave, English HeritageHistoric England

Welsh Baptist Church

The Baptist Church in England dates to the early 17th century. A desire for reform to the mainstream Church of England led to the creation of a number of separatist movements holding a variety of views. One group practiced total immersion for baptism and were nicknamed 'Baptists', and the name remained.

Welsh Baptist Chapel, Westminster, London
As migrant workers populated London in the 19th century, churches were built to accommodate their religious needs.

The Welsh Baptist Chapel was built in 1889 to designs by Owen Lewis. Constructed in red brick with stone dressings, it has an eclectic Classical front, with a Corinthian colonnade portico that has an entablature with a Welsh language inscription 'CAPEL BEDYDDWYR CYMREIG'.

Wheal Busy Chapel, Wheal Busy, Chacewater, Cornwall (2013-06-14) by Steve Cole, English HeritageHistoric England

Bible Christian Church

In the 18th century, Methodism, a movement founded by John Wesley, sought to reform the Church of England from within. It eventually became a separate church.

Early in the 19th century, Methodist preacher William O'Bryan founded the Bible Christian Church, which soon spread its message beyond its Cornwall and Devon roots. One aspect of the church was that it recognised the ministry of women. The church came to an end in 1907 when it merged with other dissident Methodist groups to form the United Methodist Church.

Wheal Busy Chapel, Chacewater, Cornwall
This modest-looking chapel dates to 1863. Built in killas rubble with granite dressings and a slate roof, it was fitted with a gallery at the ritual west end and box pews throughout. It is considered to be the best surviving chapel of its type in Cornwall.

Friends' Meeting House, Come-To-Good, Kea, Cornwall (2013-06-13) by Steve Cole, English HeritageHistoric England

Society of Friends

The Society of Friends originated in England during the mid-16th century. Also known as Quakers, adherents dedicated themselves to living with a direct, inward understanding of God, without the need for creed or clergy.

Friends' Meeting House, Kea, Cornwall
This Quaker Meeting House at Kea was built in 1710 using funds raised from subscriptions. It is constructed in cob on stone rubble footings and has a wheat reed thatch roof. The section without front and back walls seen to the right in this photograph was added in the 19th century.

The main part of the meeting house was originally a single space open to the roof. In 1717 a gallery was inserted to provide additional accommodation. Many original fittings survive, their simplicity of designed reflecting the attitudes of the Quaker movement.

Mormon Temple, Temple Way, Chorley, Lancashire (2011-06-29) by Alun Bull, English HeritageHistoric England

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

Also known as the Mormon Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was founded in the United States of America in 1830. The term 'Mormon' derives from the Book of Mormon, which was published by the church's founder, Joseph Smith Jnr. Persecution and violence resulted in mass movement and resettlement and the creation of a number of independent Mormon groups.

The first Mormon missionaries arrived in England in 1837. They preached in Preston, Lancashire and in the July of that year baptised their first nine converts in the River Ribble.

Mormon Temple, Chorley, Lancashire
Also known as the Preston England Temple, it is the second Mormon temple to have been built in England. Because of the locality's history with the arrival of Mormonism to England, the temple was built just ten miles (sixteen kilometres) from Preston.

Faced in white Sardinian granite, it was constructed between 1994 and 1998. It is the second largest temple in Europe and sits within a landscape that also houses a missionary training centre and family history centre.

Church of Christ the King, Prince Charles Avenue, Bowburn, Cassop-Cum-Quarrington, County Durham (2006-01-04) by Bob Skingle, English HeritageHistoric England

Church of England

Church of Christ the King, Bowburn, County Durham
Locally known as 'the pineapple church', this photograph was taken shortly before this unusual church building was demolished. It was replaced by a far less radical church and hall, perhaps more befitting its residential estate location.

Work started on the church in 1963 but difficulties with funding meant that it did not open until 1978. Despite problems with the roof the building was well-loved by the community that had helped to build it. Its last service was held in 2004 and it was demolished in 2007.

Leicester Hebrew Congregation, Highfield Street, Leicester (2006-08-15) by Alun Bull, English HeritageHistoric England


Despite periods of persecution and expulsion, Judaism has been present in England since the Norman Conquest in the 11th century. It took until 1858 for Jews in England to be given partial emancipation, and this helped stimulate the construction of new synagogues. England now has the second largest Jewish population in Europe.

Leicester Hebrew Congregation, Leicester
This synagogue was built in 1897-8 to designs by local architect and politician Arthur Wakerley. Constructed in brick with stone dressings, it is in a Byzantine style and features a tower and onion dome.

Wakerley was President of the Leicester Society of Architects and became Mayor of Leicester in 1897. He was also a Wesleyan lay preacher.

Synagogue of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation, Princes Road, Toxteth, Liverpool (2002-02-06) by Peter Williams, English HeritageHistoric England


The Jewish community in Liverpool was founded in the middle of the 18th century. It became one of the largest and most influential outside of London due to its society connections, and the prominence of its members as leading merchants, bankers, shopkeepers and jewellers.

Synagogue of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation, Toxteth, Liverpool
Also known as the Princes Road Synagogue, it was built in 1872-4 to designs by W and G Audsley. Constructed in red brick with red sandstone and polished red granite dressings, it incorporates a variety of styles and influences, including Moorish, Classical, Egyptian, Romanesque and Gothic.

It is the most lavish High Victorian Oriental synagogue in England, and is the sister to the New West End synagogue in London, which was also designed by George Audsley.

Shah Jahan Mosque, Oriental Road, Woking, Surrey (2002-07-09) by Peter Williams, English HeritageHistoric England


By the 17th century, Britain enjoyed more trade with the Islamic world than any other European country. In the early 17th century there were a small number of Muslims of unknown origin working in London and in 1649 the complete text of the Qur'an was translated into English.

Trade through the East India Company and the use of sailors from Indian and elsewhere brought more Muslims to England. As Britain's empire expanded, the number of Muslim immigrant workers and students in England increased.

The exact number is unknown but it is estimated that there are up to 1,500 mosques in Britain. The first mosque in England was established in Liverpool in 1887 by the scholar Henry Quilliam who became a Muslim in 1884.

Shah Jahan Mosque, Woking, Surrey
The Shah Jahan Mosque in Woking is England's first purpose-built mosque. It was built in 1889 by WI Chambers for the orientalist and linguist Dr Gottlieb Wilhelm Leitner.

Prayer hall, Baitul Futuh Mosque, London Road, Morden, Merton, Greater London (2012-02-29) by James O Davies, English HeritageHistoric England

Ahmadiyya Muslim Community

Ahmadiyya Muslims believe that the second coming of the Messiah occurred in India over 100 years ago, promoting a message of peace to the people of the world.

Baitul Futuh Mosque, Morden, London
London's Baitul Futuh Mosque is the largest mosque in Britain. Friday prayers can attract 5,000 people, while over 10,000 people have been accommodated during special events. As well as prayer halls for men and women, the site has kitchen and dining facilities, a multi-purpose hall, washrooms, library and exhibition hall.

Funded by community donations, the mosque was built between 1999 and 2003. In September 2015 a fire caused substantial damage, leading to a massive rebuilding programme.

Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Brentfield Road, Neasden, Brent, Greater London (1997-10-10) by Sid Barker, Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of EnglandHistoric England

Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha

After Christianity and Islam, Hinduism is the third most popular religion practiced in the United Kingdom. There are over 150 Hindu temples in the country. Like Islam, the presence of Hinduism in England is connected to Empire and immigration, particularly dating to the early 19th century and more recently following the Second World War.

There are many Hindu denominations. The Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha community has beliefs firmly rooted in the Vedas religious texts.

Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Neasden, London
The Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden, London is the largest Hindu temple in Europe. Built between 1991 and 1995, the temple features an exterior of Bulgarian limestone with Indian and Italian marble used internally - all chosen for their durability and sculptural qualities. The stone was transported to India where it was crafted before assembly at the temple site in London.

Nirman Sewak Jatha Gurdwara, Summerhill Road, St George, Bristol (2007-05-01) by James O Davies, English HeritageHistoric England


Sikhism in Britain dates from the middle of the 19th century but it was not until the middle of the following century that its presence significantly increased. This period of immigration was stimulated by Indian independence in 1947 and partition's significant affect on the Punjab region, and the economic encouragement of post-war reconstruction.

Unsurprisingly, England's first gurdwara (temple) was an adapted building. In 1911 a house in Putney was rented for use by a London-based Sikh association. In contrast, in 2003, the Sri Guru Sabha Gurdwara, Southall, opened in London. It is the largest purpose-built Sikh temple outside India.

Nirman Sewak Jatha Gurdwara, Bristol
Many immigrant populations are well represented in England's port cities. In Bristol, members of the Sikh community purchased a former school in 1970, adapting the 19th century building so it could function as a place of worship and community facility.

Nirman Sewak Jatha Gurdwara, Summerhill Road, St George, Bristol (2007-04-27) by James O Davies, English HeritageHistoric England


Nirman Sewak Jatha Gurdwara, Bristol
Prominent in the gurdwara is a takhalmmlolt, a raised platform upon which Sikhism's holy scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib is placed and protected under a canopy. Worshipers sit in front of the takhalmmlolt, sometimes with male and females sat on different sides of the gurdwara.

This photograph shows the interior of the former school building. Originally, the large schoolroom would have been open from floor to ceiling, with large windows placed up the wall so that the room was well lit but prevented children from being distracted by anything outside. Here we see the takhalmmlolt at one end of the former schoolroom.

Between 2012 and 2016 the temple underwent a major building programme to improve facilities. A floor was inserted and dormers added to create space for worship on an upper level, and a new community space on the ground floor.

Kadampa Temple for World Peace, Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre, Conishead Priory, Ulverston, Cumbria (2008-08-20) by Alun Bull, English HeritageHistoric England


The origins of Buddhism date to the 6th century BC. From northern India it spread through Central and Southeast Asia. Consequently a number of forms of Buddhism, such as Zen and Theravada emerged. Scholarly interest in Buddhism in England evolved during the 19th century and in the early 20th century national Buddhist societies were formed.

Kadampa Temple for World Peace, Ulverston, Cumbria
The Kadampa Buddhist Temple sits within the Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre on the site of a 12th-century Augustinian Priory in Cumbria. The temple was designed according to traditional plans by Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. Its four doorways represent the four ways to enter the path to liberation; the lantern is topped by a five-pronged vajra, a thunderbolt or mythical weapon, which symbolises the five wisdoms of an enlightened being.

Completed in 1997, it marked the beginning of an international project to build temples around the globe dedicated to world peace.

Pagan wedding during Winter Solstice, Stonehenge, Amesbury, Wiltshire (2004-12-21) by Nigel Corrie, English HeritageHistoric England


Modern Paganism or Neo-paganism manifests itself in different ways throughout the world. It can be defined as a polytheistic or pantheistic nature-worshiping religion with origins that predate the major world monotheistic religions.

In England there are a number of movements associated with modern, Neo-paganism, including Wicca, Druidry and Heathenry.

Pagan wedding ceremony, Stonehenge, Wiltshire
This image shows a Pagan wedding ceremony being conducted during the winter solstice on 21 December 2004. The winter solstice marks the day in the year that has the shortest period of daylight and the longest night, and has been celebrated by many cultures throughout history.

A number of ancient monuments have associations with ritual and astronomical phenomena. Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument with an earthwork bank and ditch enclosing standing stones. While the purpose of Stonehenge is subject to many theories, the alignment of stones to the sunset of the winter solstice and sunrise of the summer solstice give meaning to many who celebrate these events.

The Rose Window, York Minster, York (1998-10-22) by Bob Skingle, Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of EnglandHistoric England

Irreplaceable: A History of England in 100 Places

England's buildings of faith and belief are some of our oldest and most prestigious historic monuments. They are integral to the historic built environment of villages, towns and cities throughout the country.

From humble iron chapels to grand parish churches, from converted schools to glorious cathedrals, they are physical evidence of thousands of years of spiritual need, and many have witnessed some of England's most important historical events.

Historic England's Irreplaceable campaign, sponsored by specialist insurer, Ecclesiastical, aims to highlight the places that have changed England and the world.

Image: The Rose Window, York Minster, York
York Minster contains a wealth of medieval and later stained glass. The Rose Window dates from the early 16th century.

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