Thinking Anglicans

Cathedral admission charges

Sir Tony Baldry, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, recently gave this written answer in the House of Commons to a question on the cost to visitors of accessing religious buildings.

Religious Buildings: Fees and Charges

Dr Offord: To ask the hon. Member for Banbury, representing the Church Commissioners, what recent assessment the Church Commissioners have made of the cost to visitors of accessing religious buildings. [163105]

Sir Tony Baldry: Of the 42 Dioceses in England (excluding Sodor and Man and Europe) only nine cathedrals charge an entry fee. Chester Cathedral has just abolished all entry charges. Unlike the national museums none of the Church of England’s cathedral or church buildings receive grant in aid from the Government.

All cathedrals which charge for entry give free access to those attending services (of which there are a number every day of the week), to those who arrive on pilgrimage or wish to pray, some give free entry on Sundays and at other times, generally early in the morning or late in the afternoon, and others give free entry to local residents or church attenders in their Dioceses.

Only two of the great parish churches charge entry fees or a modest charge to enter part of the church. They are St Bartholomew’s the Great in London Diocese and Holy Trinity Church, Stratford upon Avon in Coventry diocese the resting place of William Shakespeare.

Both the churches and cathedrals resort to charging primarily to recover the cost of repairing the fabric of the building due to the large volume of tourist visitors they receive.

The English Cathedrals and Royal Peculiars that currently charge for entry as of June 2013:

Canterbury
Coventry
Ely
Exeter
Lincoln
Christ Church, Oxford (to enter college)
St George’s Chapel, Windsor (to enter castle)(1)
St Paul’s
Westminster Abbey(1)
Winchester
York Minster

(1) Royal Peculiar

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Richard Ashby
Richard Ashby
7 years ago

I was at Ely on a Sunday afternoon ten days ago and was not charged to go in, and that was more than an hour before Evensong which I had gone to attend. Perhaps Ely is one of those that doesn’t charge on Sundays. (Evensong, sung by the girls and men, was excellent)

Simon Kershaw
Simon Kershaw
7 years ago

Yes, Ely does not charge for entry on Sundays nor, of course, for those coming to a service on other days.

Simon K (a member of the Cathedral Council at Ely, but not speaking for the Cathedral)

JCF
JCF
7 years ago

“to those who arrive on pilgrimage”

The term “pilgrimage” is obviously open to interpretation. In 2013, a pilgrimage to view great ecclesiastical art would not be that unusual, I would think. [If I wasn’t a believer (intending to pray within), it’s a rationale I would use! ;-/]

Father David
Father David
7 years ago

Three cheers for Chester for abolishing all admission charges. WWJD? Over turn the tables of the money changers – that’s what! Of course, those who wear dog collars get in free so there’s a business opportunity for a budding entrepreneur to stand outside those cathedrals that do charge and sell clerical collars for 50 pence a go. Lord Sugar would approve.

David Keen
David Keen
7 years ago

WWJD? I don’t think he’d bother building a cathedral in the first place.

Laurence Cunnington
Laurence Cunnington
7 years ago

As an atheist who enjoys visiting cathedrals, I am more than happy to pay an entrance fee to look around one – I don’t expect to get into a country house for nothing and I’m sure that cathedrals are at least as expensive to maintain and run as a large ‘stately home’. Whatever one’s view of the Church of England and/or its established status, these are incredibly important buildings that must be maintained – I’ve long felt that state ownership and maintenance of the medieval cathedrals would be a longer term solution (the same would apply to Grade 1 listed… Read more »

Confused Sussex
Confused Sussex
7 years ago

I worked close to either St Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Abbey over a number of years and on a average day there is no feeling of being in a sacred building at all but simply being in a tourist trap. Although I agree that both in theory allow people to pray for free it was often quite difficult to persuade those responsible that you simply wished to pray.(for which reason I ended up praying either in Westminster Cathedral or one of the City churches, depending on my location)

rjb
rjb
7 years ago

I agree with Confused Sussex. If you charge people to enter a sacred building, it inevitably changes the way they think of and behave in that space. Entering the building becomes a transaction, for which they expect to get something in return, rather than a free gift that is given unconditionally (or almost unconditionally!) to all. The effect is especially pernicious when, as at Westminster Abbey, the visitors find that having shelled out their £12 (!) there are a lot of things they can’t do, like take photographs of the interior of the building. I almost wonder if it wouldn’t… Read more »

Jean Mayland
Jean Mayland
7 years ago

I also congratulate Chester on abolishing the Entrance Charge. I hope and pray that one day York Minster will do the same. When my husband was Canon Treasurer at the Minster he always said that one ‘would charge to enter the Minster over his dead body’. After we left the charge was imposed supposedly for a short time to cover debts run up by the new Dean. The charge is still there and increasing. It pays the costs of all the managers and admittance people etc doing what the four canons did in our day! One cannot charge people and… Read more »

Tim
Tim
7 years ago

The more cathedrals charge, the more out of touch with the population they look when Occupy camp on their doorstep.

Lister Tonge
Lister Tonge
7 years ago

I hate the need for these charges but, since I have no answer to how otherwise to make ends meet in these places, I pay up every time.

Some of the above criticisms seem devoid of positive suggestions about how Cathedral/Peculiars should manage without charging.

Not long ago I saw someone express outrage at being asked for the entry fee at Exeter. The person behind him in the ‘queue’ (with cash at the ready) asked who should fund the cost of his visit if not he himself. He left, apparently even more outraged.

Outrage comes easier than answers, it seems.

Chip
Chip
7 years ago

Has Wells stopped charging since summer, 2011?

Labarum
Labarum
7 years ago

Admission to St Mary-in-the-Castle is not free as there is a charge to enter Dover Castle which is managed by English Heritage.

The church is maintained by English Heritage as part of the monument. Although used as the garrison church, it is the chapel of an extra-parochial place.

Worshippers may enter the castle precincts without charge.

(My information may be dated.)

Confused Sussex
Confused Sussex
7 years ago

I was not criticising the chapters of St Paul’s or Westminster Abbey – I accept they need the money for the upkeep of the buildings and I do not have an alternative solution!
But they should I think acknowledge that the prioritisation and/or provision for prayer and/or worship is minimised during office hours and that if you ask if you might pray you are more than likely viewed with some suspicion.

Kate
Kate
7 years ago

It’s difficult isn’t it, and I’ve certainly been in the ‘outraged’ camp from time to time despite also working in the heritage field, and understanding perfectly well that the money has to come from somewhere. I think a big difference is what is charged and how. A not unreasonable six quid not only gets you into Lincoln Cathedral, but also gives you as many repeat visits as you like a year – so the amount charged to locals dropping in even once a month becomes miniscule. This seems very defendable. (Mind you, if they were cannier, they’d make the teashop… Read more »

Erika Baker
Erika Baker
7 years ago

Wells has never charged, they ask for donations but anyone can go in without paying.

Tim Chesterton
7 years ago

My Mum and Dad live in Oakham, a few miles from Peterborough Cathedral, and we love going there when we visit them. They have no admission charge but they do suggest a donation. They also charge three pounds for photography, and you can then take pictures of anything you want. Not only that, but the staff are some of the friendliest and most helpful I’ve ever run into – and that’s my consistent experience over some fifteen years of visiting there. When I have that sort of positive experience, I find I’m always in a generous frame of mind when… Read more »

Mark Bonney
Mark Bonney
7 years ago

I was on the staff at Salisbury Cathedral for 8 years and am now at Ely. At Salisbury there’s a ‘donation’ desk, though the truth is you have to be brave not to donate! We recognised we were hiding behind a fig leaf when we said we didn’t charge! It’s an unashamed charge at Ely, but your ticket gives you unlimited repeat visits during the year; local residents and those on parish ERs get a free ticket. No charge on Sundays, or before 1000 or to pray. Chapter’s aspiration is not to charge, but as yet an alternative has not… Read more »

Laurence
Laurence
7 years ago

Wearing a ‘dog–collar’ one is obsequiously waved into cathedrals, payment also waived.

Go in, in muffti and be treated with clipped Southern insoucience, and rudeness.

Father David
Father David
7 years ago

“clipped Southern insouciance, and rudeness” is Laurence implying that pilgrims , tourists and visitors to our Northern cathedrals are greeted with Christian warmth and hospitality? I note that only one cathedral in the Northern Province charges for entry – York! Perhaps the many cathedrals in the Southern Province which do charge admission fees should send those who work the cash registers to Peterborough for guidance where, according to Tim Chesterton, the staff are most friendly and helpful.

ian
ian
7 years ago

Things are beginning to make sense – the new diocese of Leeds will have three cathedrals, will this be three more opportunities to increase funds? just askin’

Laurence
Laurence
7 years ago

On the whole, I find a big difference between the very friendly, welcoming and fervent welcome and on-going treatment accorded by National Trust volunteers; and those at cathedrals who man (sic) the entrance tills. At Ely one goes thru the shop in the main are (paid to get there) but emeges in another (notional) area where one may not have paid; and I found it unnerving to be shouted at (I am hard of hearing) in front of everyone,”Sir, sir, have you paid?!” And to eventually discover that I am the object of such unwelcome and unwelcoming entreaty. I could… Read more »

Feria
Feria
7 years ago

Mr. Baldry has missed (at least) three Royal Peculiars that charge for admission: King’s College, Cambridge; New College, Oxford; and Buckingham Palace.

Lister Tonge
Lister Tonge
7 years ago

@ Feria: New College appears to have become a Royal Peculiar since I was its Chaplain in 2010. ______ Everyone is welcome to visit Newport Cathedral where I work. There is no entry fee and our little shop is tucked away – as is the cathedral itself! Most things are done here by volunteers so we do not have a huge wage bill (our one employee is our new caretaker whom we can just afford because we have no office staff). But being so off-the-beaten-track and with very modest foot-fall, we have few of the overheads generated by staff and… Read more »

Feria
Feria
7 years ago

Dear Lister,

New College is listed as a “definite” Royal Peculiar in P. Barber, 1995, _Ecclesiastical Law Journal_ *3*(16):299-312.

Lister Tonge
Lister Tonge
7 years ago

Dear Feria

I think it still might come as a surprise to both New College and the peculiarly royal.

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
7 years ago

A possible solution to the problem of charging admission to cathedrals (or at least a means of lowering the more exorbitants ones, such as St. Pauls):

Why doesn’t the CoE sell off some of its non-ecclesiastic real estate, and some (or all) of its art collection, and establish an interest-earning foundation to support these buildings?

Jim Roberts
Jim Roberts
7 years ago

A church is not a museum or an art gallery. It is the house of God. Entrance should be free to all whether they come to pray or stare. Entering a church bestows a blessing and making or paying money for that blessing is simony and a grave sin. When our time approaches to enter the gates of heaven, we know that our entrance fee has been paid for us – but those who charge us to enter our churches and cathedrals might find otherwise.

Stephen Morgan
Stephen Morgan
6 years ago

In the last few months we have visited Winchester, Durham, Ely and Peterborough cathedrals. The charge for Winchester was £15.00 each. I visited it many years ago when it was free, and it is an undoubtedly fine building, but it is not worth £15.00. So we turned away and spent our money in the city. Durham was free. We walked around the interior for about 40 minutes, spent 20 minutes in the shop, where we spent well over £30. In the shop area they are building a sponsored model cathedral out of LEGO bricks. This was attracting great interest and… Read more »

Allan
Allan
5 years ago

Went to Westminster Abbey today to pray. Turned away at ticket booth by aggressive woman. Let in at west door by verger who dictated where and how I should pray. Sensed I was watched in case I went touristy. Mailed Canterbury and suggested we must hope our Lord has £18 on Him when He returns to gain entry to His church.

Lynda Kelly
Lynda Kelly
5 years ago

Just wanted to agree with the many comments on the friendliness of staff at Peterborough cathedral. It is a beautiful cathedral and I was delighted that they don’t charge to go in. I visited the city of Ely too, but didn’t go in to the cathedral due to a charge of £8. They lost out on my donation, but Peterborough gained an extra donation (Ely’s loss).

Terence Mumford
Terence Mumford
5 years ago

As a Christian I enjoy going to my particular church for the very purpose for which it exists. My church is an evangelical church and not part of the established Church of England We all know that church attendances are dramatically falling in this country, yet in the evangelical church they are on the rise I am NOT saying that charging to go in is the cause of this, beause as has been said “You are usually allowed in free, if to pray, etc” However what I am saying is the fact that the established church does make a charge… Read more »

Martin Maxwell-Jones
Martin Maxwell-Jones
5 years ago

Converting many of the underused churches around the country into Mosques would bring much needed funds for refurbishment (not that much change style wise) and regular devout passionate congregations, five times a day! Plus social activities at other times. If churches and cathedrals are only maintained for a trickle of Christian worshipers but mostly tourists and those with historical interests and hence need funding, it would be best to give them to people who would really use them for the original purpose. Islam is filling places of worship daily in the UK and our empty disheveled churches would benefit greatly… Read more »

Bernard Dodd
Bernard Dodd
4 years ago

To the Anglican Cathedrals of England In the year the Church of England has just announced record profits on it’s investment portfolios of over £8,000,000,000. Considering that the question of cathedral entry charges were questioned in the House of Commons (Chester apparently dropping charges immediately), how come there are still 9 cathedrals charging under the pretext of needing the money to maintain the buildings. Very odd that all the other 30 or more can manage, so please could you explain, is it bad management or sheer greedy thieving especially when most of them that make charges are in top tourist… Read more »

Miss L Ellis, Bedford
Miss L Ellis, Bedford
4 years ago

I went with a friend to Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market today, which was cold and wet. We enjoyed the market then went to the Cathedral to rest for a while in the peace, possibly to walk around, possibly not. I’m a tithing member of my anglican church (open daily with free access) and I was horrified to see the entrance into the aisles was roped off, and guarded by 2 people, with queues to buy £7.50 tickets. (Extra for tower tour and for audio guide). I understand the cost of upkeep, but I find charging to access the body of… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
7 months ago

I’m from Winchester, and the admission charge saddens me, and it also greatly saddens me that you went away with a bad impression. There has been talk of abolishing the Winchester admission charge, but I don’t know how far that idea has reached (of course, it never applies to attending services and, to my knowledge, no one who wants to pray or light a candle is ever denied). There is an underlying problem, and it is a very major one. How many contributors to this thread (including clergy) are aware of the enormous cost of upkeep of cathedrals, particularly the… Read more »

Rev. Alex Rigby
Rev. Alex Rigby
3 years ago

As a priest, I enjoy free entry to the cathedrals. However, whether ordained or not NO-ONE should be charged to enter a house of prayer. Asking for donations, to be given freely…….fine. As it was given freely to you, give freely into others.

John Lovelock
John Lovelock
3 years ago

My wife and I are confirmed atheists however we love visiting old churches and cathedrals. I would be happy to contribute to their upkeep via perhaps a “cathedral card”.Annual membership could be similar to English Heritage or National Trust.

Eileen Coleman
Eileen Coleman
2 years ago

I’m in the privileged position of being both a worshipper and a volunteer at Rochester Cathedral. We don’t charge and our Dean has no plans to start. We struggle to make ends meet as we are between London and Canterbury so often get bypassed by visitors. We are a fairly small cathedral but we are the second oldest in England as our Saxon foundation was 604, just 7 years after Canterbury. A large proportion of our money is spent on the music but hearing our choirs takes you a step nearer to Heaven. Please come and visit us.I would add… Read more »

David Radford
David Radford
2 years ago

I always make a donation but on visiting York minster I was disgusted at 11 pound per person for going around one level of the Minster I wanted to show my grandson who has learning difficulties the Minster but I walked out

Kim Matthews
Kim Matthews
2 years ago

Horrified that Canterbury charge £23 admission. I understand the need to raise funds for upkeep but can they not ask for donations and not demand.

Denis Desert [the Rev'd]
Denis Desert [the Rev'd]
1 year ago

As an Anglican priest of over sixty years standing I deprecate charges being made to enter our cathedrals. They are primarily a place for prayer and in no way should people be charged to open themselves to our Creator. At least the temple in Jerusalem in the time of Christ made no entrance charge but a box was provided for free will offerings. What is the Church of England coming to?

Jackie Hall
Jackie Hall
1 year ago

Disappointed to learn that a years subscription fee of £11.00 is charged as an admittance fee to York Minster. Classed as a tourist – from a neighbouring county but not returning within the year – why so high? Ours was a one off Christmas visit of which we had 20 mins to spare – and we, like many I guess, find £22.00 extortionate especially as we always give donations! We left very disappointed in not sharing the feeling of the season within the walls – as we feel God would not turn anyone away according to their purse.

Deborah Fisher
Deborah Fisher
1 year ago

I agree with everything that’s been said about the immorality of churches charging for admission. I’m glad that some of them have seen the light and withdrawn the charges. I helped in our local museum, where we used to charge 50p for adults and 20p for concessions. We withdrew the charges and what do you know? Our visitor numbers doubled and most of those visitors gave a donation of at least £1. There is such a thing as pricing yourself out of business and the cathedrals that choose to charge will no doubt learn this the hard way.

michael kemble
michael kemble
7 months ago

I refused to pay £11.50 each at York Minster yesterday and walked away. Its a rip off. I refuse to pay to visit any church. We always leave a donation but not here, never again.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
7 months ago
Reply to  michael kemble

I fully understand the dislike of cathedral admission charges, and it saddens me that they deter people from visiting what I consider to be the greatest buildings and greatest expressions of Christian art in our country, but the likes of York Minster would not get by on voluntary donations of the kind described by Deborah Fisher in the previous post (nor, of course, should it be thought of as a matter of a place of worship pricing itself “out of business”). £11.50 is less than half the admission charge at Yorkshire’s most famous ‘stately home’ – not many miles from… Read more »

CSBL
CSBL
7 months ago

I love to visit churches and cathedrals wherever I go with my children, but I learned not to go to the great English cathedrals with them when they ere younger. Both are adopted from Nepal, one of them was given to the orphanage by his mother as she had not enough money to keep her children from starving. I raised them in the Christian faith. But how can you explain to a child that entering the House of God costs more than his Nepalese mother earns in a whole month? Even now, years later, they avoid English churches. Luckily we… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
7 months ago
Reply to  CSBL

There may be a few very special cases, but I don’t personally know of any English churches which charge for admission. Some English cathedrals (by no means all) charge for admission. These tend to be the largest with enormous maintenance costs. None are profit-making organisations, but money is essential to keep the House of God open! Please see my reply to Michael Kemble for the reasons for saying this. I do hope you, and your family, will be able to visit English churches when you have the opportunity – there are thousands of them!

csbl
csbl
7 months ago

Thanks for your reply, it confirmed that I was right when I told my children that some cathedrals (the ones with the entrance fees) are no longer churches, but primarily museums, and only sometimes used as churches. Back in the early years, when I first started to travel in England, it was possible enter all cathedrals and churches without paying, just to go in and sit down for peace and prayer. The nave used to be free of charge, and only if you wanted to see the choir you paid admission. I remember having to skip most choirs for lack… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
7 months ago
Reply to  csbl

The finances of most English cathedrals are not on a sound footing – these are matters of concern and regret. I only know of one where this cannot be said. But I have never known (I am 78) of any English cathedral to charge for admission to the Choir (or Quire) and I only know of one – St Paul’s Cathedral London – where that part of the building cannot be viewed at close quarters. There can be risks – not all visitors know how to behave in a church – or worse – for example, my local cathedral, one… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
7 months ago

I have inadvertently replied on this thread (which has just been re-opened during the last ten days) to two posts without realising that they were written several years ago! But I have tried to explain, if not to justify, that admission charges are an unfortunate fact of life for the largest cathedrals which have enormous running costs for the maintenance of their structures alone. I don’t think that the facts have changed significantly since Sir Tony Baldry’s parliamentary answer in July 2013.

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