As cathedrals across the country prepare to open their doors for carol services, Wells Cathedral in Somerset, which has one of four specialist music schools in Britain, is celebrating the announcement that a £9.4 million public performing arts centre is to be built in the school grounds. Former pupil Michael Eavis, who runs the nearby Glastonbury Music Festival, cut the turf for new Cedars Hall, which is due to open in 2014.

Mr Eavis, who attended the school from 1944 to 1950, admits he was turned down for the cathedral choir. He says the centre will be ‘a great thing for the school, for Wells, for Somerset and beyond. The school gave me, and my daughter Emily later on, a lot of self-confidence and self-belief and that’s worth a lot.’ A public appeal was launched in February which has, so far, raised £216,000, with a further £1.8 million needed. To donate, visit www.wellscathedralschool.org/foundation. There are ‘Carols by Candlelight’ services at Wells Cathedral on December 20 and 21 at 7pm (tickets £22 or £12 unreserved) plus a traditional carol service on December 23 at 6pm for which early arrival is advised (01749 674483; www.wellscathedral.org.uk).

The composer Peter Maxwell Davies described the choir of King’s College Cambridge as ‘a crowning glory of our civilisation’ and some of the highest standards of musicianship in Britain can be found – daily, for free – in our cathedrals. Here, Country Life highlights carol services this Christmas, mainly the traditional ‘Nine lessons and carols’, which was first invented at Truro Cathedral in 1880, but we advise checking availability first if tickets are required and setting off early even if they aren’t.

Birmingham December 21 and 24, 5.30pm (0121 262 1840; www.birminghamcathedral.com)
Bristol December 23 and 24, 3.30pm (0117 926 4879; www.bristol-cathedral.co.uk)
Canterbury December 23, 3pm (01227 762862; www.canterbury-cathedral.org)

Carlisle December 16, 3pm, and 24, 6.30pm (01228 548151; www.carlislecathedral.org.uk)

Chester December 21, 7.30pm (tickets cost £12.50, 01244 500959; www.chestercathedral.com)
Chichester December 20 and 21, 6pm, and 23, 3pm (01243 782595; www.chichestercathedral.org.uk)
Coventry December 15 3pm and 7.30pm (tickets £15) (024 7652 1200; www.coventrycathedral.org.uk)

Durham December 15 with Thomas Allen, 7.30pm (tickets from £10), December 22, 2pm for children (0191 386 4266; www.durhamcathedral.co.uk)

Ely December 22 ‘Hark the Herald’, 7.30pm (01353 660349; www.elycathedral.org)

Exeter December 24, 6pm (doors open at 4pm and will close when full, 01392 255573; www.exeter-cathedral.org.uk)
Hereford December 22 and 23, 7pm (booking essential, 01432 374200; www.herefordcathedral.org)
King’s College Cambridge December 24, 3pm, broadcast live on Radio 4, doors open at 1.30pm, queueing starts at 7.30am – generally, those in the queue by 9am will get in (www.kings.cam.ac.uk)
Lichfield December 19, Choral Evensong live on Radio 3 at 3pm (arrive by 3.10pm); 21, Christmas by Candlelight’, 7.30pm (tickets from £10), 23 carol concert, 6.30pm (arrive by 6.15pm) (01543 306100; www.lichfield-cathedral.org)
Lincoln December 24, 4pm (01522 561600; www.lincolncathedral.com) 

Liverpool December 22and 24, 3pm (0151 7027217; www.liverpoolcathedral.org.uk)

Manchester December 22, 7.30pm (0161 8332220; www.manchestercathedral.org)

Newcastle December 24, 6pm (0191 2321939; www.stnicholascathedral.co.uk) 

Norwich December 15, 7.30pm (tickets from £10, 01603 218300; www.norwichcathedral.org.uk)

Christ Church Oxford December 23, 6pm, and 24, 3pm (booking has closed but there may be seats available on the day, 01865 276155; www.chchchoir.org)
Peterborough December 24, 4pm (01733 355310; www.peterborough-cathedral.org.uk)

Ripon December 23 and 24, 5.30pm (01765 603462; www.riponcathedral.org.uk) 

St Albans December 21 and 23, 7pm (telephone 01727 860780 for return tickets; www.stalbanscathedral.org) 

Salisbury December 21, 7pm, and 23, 5pm (01722 555120; www.salisburycathedral.org.uk) 

Sheffield December 23, 6.30pm, and 24, 7pm (0114 2797412; www.sheffieldcathedral.org) 

Truro December 23 and 24, 7pm, new queueing system this year, doors open at 6pm (01872 276782; www.trurocathedral.org.uk) 

Wakefield December 23, 4pm (01924 373923; www.wakefieldcathedral.org.uk) 

Winchester December 19 (ticketed, some standing places available) and 20 and 22, all 6.30pm (01962 857275; www.winchester-cathedral.org.uk) 

York Minster December 23 and 24, 4pm (0844 9390011; www.yorkminster.org)