Half of UK adults visited a church last year

Nearly half of British adults have visited a church or a chapel in the last year, according to a poll today.

The main reason for the visit was to attend a service, but many also visited as tourists and to take part in non-religious activities such as playgroups and meetings.

Four out of five people believe churches and chapels are an important part of the nation's heritage, and even among non-Christians, three quarters of those polled agreed this was the case. Most non-Christians also valued the local church because of the community space it provides, according to the poll of more than 2,000 adults for the National Churches Trust by ComRes.

More than two in five British adults visited a church or chapel over the past 12 months, including two in five British adults from non-Christian religions and more than a quarter of those who do not consider themselves a member of any religion.

Most of those surveyed also disagreed that "repairing and restoring historic church buildings only benefits churchgoers." Three out of four people said churches and chapels should have good access and modern facilities such as toilets to make it easier for people to use them.

Claire Walker, chief executive of the National Churches Trust, said: "This poll shows that the British public see churches and chapels as major national assets of benefit to all, both as a vital part of the UK's heritage and history and as playing an important role for society by providing a place for community activities.

"It also shows that the British public agree that repairing and restoring church buildings and making sure that they have modern facilities benefits the whole of society and not just churchgoers.

"At the National Churches Trust we help fund urgent repairs and the installation of community facilities at places of worship, but can only ever help a small proportion of those who come to us for assistance."

"I hope that the widespread public support for church buildings demonstrated in this poll will help to ensure that other funders, such as the Heritage Lottery Fund, continue to make the repair of churches and chapels a priority in their allocation of grants. 

"With the numbers of active churchgoers falling in parts of the country, question marks have been raised over the future of some of the UK's church buildings, with closures taking place in some areas. 

"But churches continue to be used by many people, with 45% of British adults reporting having visited a church building in the last year for worship, for community activities or as a tourist or visitor. 

"In good repair and with the right facilities to allow greater community use, churches and chapels can continue to play a vital role in the life and well-being of the nation for many, many years to come."