One of the causes The Queen became patron of in her Coronation year was the Historic Churches Preservation Trust, now the National Churches Trust. Church fabric was then at a low ebb. Few repairs had been undertaken since 1939. Many of the traditional supporters of country churches had been hit by the World Wars, taxation and the long agricultural depression.

Now, I was told at a lunch at C. Hoare & Co, churches are probably in a better state than ever-a testimony to the combined efforts of English Heritage, The National Lottery, charities and doughty congregations, whose members in the pew each Sunday may be counted on a very small number of hands.

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As wide a community as possible should be encouraged to feel that the church, as a building, is for them; they may then contribute to its upkeep. Farmer’s markets, toddler groups, yoga classes-all are now held in churches. Lavatories are needed: not just for ageing congregations, but for concerts.

At least, I was told as I left, Britain is better off than our Continental neighbours, the care of whose churches is the responsibility of the state. In times of economic hardship, they simply close them.

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