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Canterbury Cathedral and Stonehenge among ‘top ten’ places of worship in the UK

13 April 2018


The Holy Island of Lindisfarne, which was among the top ten, chosen by the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, Canon David Ison. See gallery for more

The Holy Island of Lindisfarne, which was among the top ten, chosen by the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, Canon David Ison. See gallery for more

CANTERBURY Cathedral, a Jewish cemetery in Cornwall, and the Holy Island of Lindisfarne in Northumberland are among the top ten places of faith and worship to feature in the Historic England campaign “Irreplaceable: A History of England in 100 places”.

The campaign, sponsored by Ecclesiastical Insurance, was created by the heritage foundation Historic England to list 100 places that represent the identity and “extraordinary history” of the country.

The top ten entries in the Faith and Belief category were chosen by the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, the Very Revd Dr David Ison, from hundreds of submissions.

They also include Stonehenge and its landscape, Amesbury, in Salisbury; Brick Lane Mosque in east London; St Andrew’s, Ongar, in Essex; Fountains Abbey in Ripon, North Yorkshire; and the Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Smethwick, near Birmingham.

Of Canterbury Cathedral, Dr Ison said: “Canterbury links England with the worldwide Church and is a cathedral looked to by Christians around the world.”

He said that Brick Lane Mosque in Spitalfields, London, had been chosen because “this place not only demonstrates how important immigration has been in influencing England’s religious landscape, but it’s also an excellent example of how people of different faiths have shaped the places around them, whilst respecting a building’s spiritual past.”

The building was formerly a Huguenot Chapel in 1743 for French Huguenots (members of the Protestant Reformed Church). They set up a silk-weaving community in the East End, after fleeing restrictions on religious freedom ordered by King Louis XIV.

The Jewish cemetery in Penryn was founded in about 1780. Beside it is another cemetery that was founded in the same year for the Congregationalist population. “This is one of the hidden histories of belief in England — a surprising reminder of the often unnoticed, or forgotten, spread of different faiths,” Dr Ison said. “It also represents how important rituals around death are in marking out different faith communities.”

Lady’s Well, near the village of Holystone, represented, he said, “the very widespread ancient tradition of using springs and wells as a way into a spiritual experience — for thousands of years humans have celebrated the life-giving nature of water. Lady’s Well is a wonderful example of how religious tradition, steeped in many years of history, survives on a local level.

“Stonehenge represents the tradition of how we humans interact with our landscape. The sheer effort which went into creating the stone circle and its surroundings says so much about the aspirations and beliefs of the people who shaped this place and demonstrates how we have long reflected on our place in the universe.”

The chief executive of Historic England, Duncan Wilson, said: “These ten places, chosen from the public’s nominations, can teach us so much about our collective identity. . . They show how England has a long history of people from different faiths leaving their mark in a legacy of special buildings and places which still make a strong spiritual connection today.”

A podcast series on the ten winners of the Faith and Belief category is available free on iTunes and SoundCloud. It is presented by the historian Suzannah Lipscomb.

Other categories include Science and Discovery, judged by Professor Robert Winston; Travel and Tourism, judged by Professor Bettany Hughes; Homes and Gardens, judged by George Clarke; Sport and Leisure, judged by Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson; Music and Literature, judged by Monica Ali; and Loss and Destruction, judged by Professor Mary Beard.

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