England's cathedrals continue to enjoy growing visitor and worshipper numbers

The interior of Salisbury Cathedral(Photo: Unsplash/Stephanie LeBlanc)

The number of people visiting and worshipping at England's cathedrals was growing prior to the first national lockdown, latest figures from the Church of England show.

The most recent data from the Church of England showed 37,300 people attended cathedral services each week last year, up 13% on 2009 figures and with midweek services growing in the past decade by 35%. 

Attendance over Advent in 2019 - including carol services, concerts and nativity plays - grew from 617,000 the previous year to a record high 665,000.

Attendance at services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day stood at 132,000, up from 118,500 people in 2009. 

Attendances at public or civic services in cathedrals, including special services and graduation ceremonies, grew to just under 1.8 million people in 2019. 

In total, Church of England cathedrals welcomed 9.7 million people through their doors last year, just below the highest-ever figure of 10.1 million reported in 2018.

Adrian Dorber, Dean of Lichfield and Chair of the Association of English Cathedrals, said the figures were "encouraging".

"Cathedrals continue to offer a reliable, accessible source of Christian presence and engagement with their communities," he said.

"We've had to rise to the challenge of lockdown and restrictions in a variety of ways, but the crisis has catalysed our use of digital media and opened up a whole new way of reaching a new and diverse public.

"When we have been able to open for worship we've done so safely, meeting Covid-secure guidelines. Opening for daily private prayer has been welcomed by many, with innovative uses of time and space.

"Cathedrals receive many prayer requests online and people come to us wanting to light candles and stand still in holy, calm and beautiful places.

"Naturally, we're also grateful for public and charitable funds which, recognising the roles we play in our communities, have enabled us to keep going during terrible financial weather and allowed us to come up with recovery and renewal plans.

"We're up for fresh challenges – we just hope the scale of them won't be as testing as those of 2020!"