St Lawrence's Church nave and chancel, Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire

The parish church of St. Lawrence at Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire, England.


Combe Martin parish church (St. Peter ad Vincula), North Devon, England.

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

Parishes in EnglandEdit

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, almost certainly be to those of the Church of England due to its status as the Established Church.

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-pariochial 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]

Priest&#039;s door

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


Church of England parish churches are the oldest churches to be found in England, often built before the 16th-century reformation, and so originally Roman Catholic (some of the very oldest, pre-Great Schism, were even Orthodox). 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 and/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 century, with the decline in the number of worshippers and the shortage of Anglican priests, there has been a trend towards team or shared ministry and many parish churches no longer have a service every Sunday.

Notable parish churchesEdit

Canterbury St Martin close

St Martin's Church, Canterbury

Leeds Parish Church (10th May 2010) 012

Leeds Parish Church

St Magnus-the-Martyr church tower

St Magnus the Martyr, London

Selby abbey

Selby Abbey

London in snow 2 February 2009 411

St Margaret's, Westminster

Notable Church of England parish churches include:

See alsoEdit


  • Pevsner, N.; et al. (1951–74). The Buildings of England (46 vols. ed.). London: 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. 

External linksEdit

Dioceses in the Province of Canterbury

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Dioceses in the Province of York

Blackburn · Bradford · Carlisle · Chester · Durham · Liverpool · Manchester · Newcastle · Ripon and Leeds · Sheffield · Sodor and Man · Southwell and Nottingham · Wakefield · York

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