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National Churches Trust
UK News

Digital counters to come in at 40 churches to count people coming in

by Cara Bentley

Currently the only data gathered is from visitor books and figures counted by church wardens on Sundays.

These are thought to seriously underestimate the number of visitors and tourists who visit churches and chapels throughout the whole week.

The Great Church Visitor Count, run by the National Churches Trust, will analyse the difference between the number of entries recorded in a church visitor book and the actual number of visitors who pass through the door.

Ten counters are already installed, including St Peter at Heversham, Cumbria; St James at Jacobstowe, Devon; St Matthews at Skegness, Lincolnshire; St Mary at Lydiard Tregoze, Wiltshire and St Augustines at Hedon, Yorkshire.

30 more counters will be installed at churches and chapels in Wales and Herefordshire later in 2019.

The counters, attached to the porch, will record the number of visitors they have over two years, with initial results of the research being released in 2020 and a full report in 2021.

To increase the range of data available, the National Churches Trust is asking churches to install their own digital counters and to collaborate in the research project.

Any churches that already have digital counters are also invited to share their data with the research project.

National Churches Trust Chief Executive Claire Walker says: "Our Great Church Visitor Count project will help churches in a number of ways. Accurate visitor numbers will help support grant applications from churches for repairs to funders such as the National Heritage Lottery Fund."

"The project will also help provide hard evidence to local authorities and tourist boards that churches attract many people interested in history and heritage and should be a central part of their tourism offer."

"We urge all churches that already have digital counters in their building to get in touch with us and join in this initiative and for more to install these devices, which cost less than £200. The more churches that can supply accurate visitor data, the more we can show just how extensively these buildings are being visited and how important they are."

The first digital counters for the National Churches Trust were installed in 2018 and all recorded a much higher numbers than those recorded in visitor books.

Between 1st September and 31st December 2018 at St Lawrence church in Revesby, the counter recorded 1,729 visits to their locked front porch, with only 49 people getting as far as the visitor book.

"We did not believe that people were really interested in our church," said Revd Andrew Roberts, rector of St Lawrence's.

"Our doors were closed apart from Sunday services. We installed a counter in the porch entrance and left it for a few weeks to monitor footfall to the church and were staggered at the number of visitors that approached the church door. This evidence persuaded us to open on a regular basis."

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