What do a circus, two theatres, antiques shops, cafes, bookshops, a martial arts gym, a music academy and artists’ studios have in common? They are housed in Norwich churches.
Norwich has long been famous for having a church for every week of the year – in fact there were once even more than that and the city still has the largest collection of urban medieval churches in northern Europe.
But as people moved out of the city centre, fewer parish churches were needed and some of the oldest and most beautiful buildings in Norwich stood empty and vulnerable to decay, vandalism and demolition.
The church of St Peter Hungate had already become the first in the whole country to be reused, back in the 1930s. Then, 45 years ago, the Norwich Historic Churches Trust was launched to look after as many as possible of the city’s threatened treasury of churches. Today it cares for 18 Grade 1 listed buildings which have been cornerstones of their communities for centuries and can now remain at the heart of the city for future generations. But it is much more than a landlord, with trust members also dedicated to sharing the wonder of these churches.
All are accessible to the public, sometimes daily, sometimes just a few times a year. And all will be open for at least part of the Heritage Open Days weekends on September 6-9 and 13-16.