Visitor numbers at England’s cathedrals are showing a strong return towards pre-pandemic days with many recording more than a 100 per cent increase on 2021 figures.
Figures collected by the Association of English Cathedrals (AEC) from 24 Church of England cathedrals and Westminster Abbey paint a picture of cautious optimism with an increase in visitor numbers across cathedrals rising from 2.9m in 2021 to 5.7m in 2022 - a growth of 197%. Westminster Abbey alone welcomed 3m total visitors in 2021 and 6.8m visitors in 2022.
“We celebrate the significant increase in visitor numbers to our English Cathedrals and these statistics confirm what our cathedrals’ staff and volunteers have been observing on a daily basis over the last year”, commented the Very Revd Jo Kelly-Moore, Dean of St Albans and chair of the AEC.
“While this is evidence of the opening up of travel and visiting on a national and global scale again, we know from feedback and engagement that this increase also confirms the vital role of the Cathedrals in our land as places of welcome for all people, in which to experience wonder, explore meaning and to find peace and hope in the challenges of our lives and of our world.”
Britain experienced disruption from the coronavirus pandemic in 2021, which the AEC says accounts for the slow return of visitors and worshippers. But it said 2022 saw most cathedrals welcome double the number of visitors, while in London, St Paul’s Cathedral recorded an increase of 300 per cent. Westminster Abbey has enjoyed a 220 per cent increase in visitors.
The Very Revd Andrew Tremlett, Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, said:
“I am so grateful to all those who visit and our volunteers and staff who offer them such a warm welcome. Last year, with the Platinum Jubilee Service of Thanksgiving in June, and then our services of Prayer and Reflection following the death of HM Queen Elizabeth in September, St Paul’s offered a place for people to mark moments of national importance, just as it has done for centuries.”
Events that the Association of English Cathedrals cite as accounting for the rise in visitor numbers include the Platinum Jubilee, the mourning period for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, and the proclamation for the new king.
The AEC says these attracted huge numbers of visitors, as did talks, tours, art exhibitions and light shows, as England’s cathedrals began to reintroduce new programmes of events alongside services and many retained the mixed ecology of online and in person worship and events.