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.

EDP Norfolk - - HERITAGE - nhct-nor­ WORDS: Rowan Man­tell

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.

Pic­ture: Denise Bradley

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