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Nearly one in four cathedrals in England have an entry fee

There are 42 cathedrals in England, nine of which charge an admission fee. At £29 a ticket, Westminster Abbey charges the highest amount.

Members of the Church of England fear that the rising fees will discourage the less fortunate from attending and that worship services may only be available to those who can afford it. The response of the Association of English Cathedrals is that those who charge a fee do guarantee free access to private prayer and to people who are attending services. Many of the cathedrals also offer free entry to locals who live nearby. However, the costs of maintenance, electricity and gas have risen significantly and the churches are facing unprecedented pressures.  Almost 300 churches have closed in the past five years. They are also tackling declining congregation numbers. 

Other cathedrals that charge for entry are: Salisbury – £9, St Paul’s – £25, Ely – £14, Lincoln – £11, York Minister – £18, Winchester – £12.50, Canterbury – £17 and Exeter. The latter, Exeter Cathedral is the cheapest at £7.50, offering free entry to young people under 18 years-old.

Most cathedrals do not charge admission fees, they just welcome donations from the public.

A few Western-European countries raise funding for their churches via a national church tax. That is not the case in England, where each cathedral is responsible for its own finances. In addition to admission fees, they raise money through congregational donations, legacies, trading activities and investments and grants from the Church Commissioners. The British Government also runs a Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme, which pays towards repairs and approved alterations to the cathedral building.

According to Reverend Robert Thompson, vicar of St Mary and St James West: “How is it that cathedrals can stay afloat and be a place of prayer and a focal point for the community?”
Hampstead and a member of General Synod said: “Putting myself in the shoes of a cathedral dean, how do you maintain the fabric of enormous buildings, which are also sites of wonderful national heritage, and yet, government funding for them is minimal”. 
Dr Gavin Ashenden, a chaplain of the late Queen Elizabeth commented: “Cathedrals have two purposes – one is being a tourist centre and the other a worship centre. But it’s absolutely essential that people don’t have to pay to go in and get down on their knees to say their prayers. The heart of being a cathedral is an encounter with God.”
According to the Executive Director of the Association of English Cathedrals: “Our cathedrals are major contributors to the economies in their local areas, providing employment and volunteer roles and, in many cases, drawing tourists and visitors into cities across the country. They not only provide spiritual and pastoral support to their communities but are key to the cultural heritage of our country.”


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