Spotlight on Victorian attitudes to worship

When a religious census was undertaken in 1851 it set alarm bells ringing rather than the church bells.

It discovered about half of the population of England and Wales attended church – an impressive figure by today’s standards. But for the Victorians confident that Britain was a Christian country it was humiliating.

Now Yorkshire-based conservation charity PLACE, which promotes research into the people, landscape and cultural environment of Yorkshire, is staging a day-long conference open to the public to cast light on the Victorian world of religion on Saturday, October 11. It will take place at St Wilfrid’s Church in Harrogate.

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Peter Hill, conference co-ordinator, said: “Yorkshire has a rich religious heritage and just as the Church today often seems to be on a rocky road, the 19th century was just as challenging.

“A massively expanding population required new churches to be built and divisions existed between and within faiths. Adding to this Catholics won freedom from discriminatory laws in 1829.

“It’s a fascinating period,” Mr Hill added.

Victorian Britain witnessed an unprecedented surge of church and chapel building and restoration. In North and East Yorkshire Sir Tatton Sykes alone restored no fewer than 18 churches, which are now regarded as masterpieces and the nation’s greatest collection of small parish churches. Stained-glass making also underwent a major revival.

Churches including St Michael and All Angels at Garton on the Wolds in the East Riding, were restored in the 19th century.

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The conference costs £25, or £20 for unwaged and retired people, including tea, coffee and buffet lunch.

To book places please email [email protected] and for further information contact Mr Hills on 01904 658539.