IF YOU’RE VISITING family and friends this December, why not get into the festive spirit early by going to a candlelit carol service?


Here’s our pick of Britain’s most atmospheric and ancient churches that are putting on a little Christmas magic from 30 November to 29 December, 2013. 


[tl:gallery size=450×300]

Historic St Peter’s Church offers a Northampton welcome this Christmas 



Thanks to the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) charity, December 2013 will be a time of seasonal singing, warmth, light and stories. By putting on a series of events, the Trust is helping to protect historic churches around Britain.


Traditional carol singing for all ages will be on offer of course, plus spine-tingling arias by candlelight, rousing and beautiful choral singing, majestic bell-ringing and even brass-band sing-alongs. Best of all, they’ll take place in fascinating old churches and chapels, all over the country. 


[tl:gallery size=450×300]

Make Christmas magical for children of all ages



Children will find plenty of fun things to do at the churches. For instance:

Victorian-inspired arts and crafts activities

• A special visit to a traditional green St Nicholas, who will narrate ancient festive legends

• Meet Santa’s reindeer 


[tl:gallery size=450×300]

Basildon’s beautiful windows have inspired Christmas cards


These events would make a perfect highlight for anyone doing a pre-Christmas caravan tour to visit far-flung family and friends, and could also make a romantic interlude for couples. So, this year why not head off in your caravan, far from the shopping malls to relive the true spirit of Christmas!


Reindeer Visit, Stories and Santa’s Sleigh

Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate, York

30 November, 2pm. Free for children, Adults £3

Children can visit Santa’s reindeer at Holy Trinity Church. Families are welcome to sit in Santa’s sleigh and get their photo taken to capture the magical moment. A green St Nicholas will also be on site, bringing to life a truly traditional Christmas with Victorian-inspired arts and crafts activities for children and storytelling about the legends of Christmas past. Children can dip into a bran tub full of wrapped Christmas presents and mulled wine and hot soup will be on sale.


Chapel Carol Service

St Andrew’s Church, Winterbourne Tomson, Dorset 

December, 6pm. Free

After an enchanting Advent carol service, mince pies and mulled wine will be served at the Manor House at Winterborne Tomson. We’re lucky to have this pretty Norman chapel today, because less than 100 years ago, it was ‘given over to the donkeys, dogs, pigs and fowls’ of the local farm. The church escaped total ruin in 1931 only when The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings sold a collection of Thomas Hardy manuscripts to pay for repairs.


[tl:gallery size=450×299]

High on Dartmoor is Princetown, home to a prison and this lovely church


Cards and Carols

Church of St Michael & All Angels

Princetown, Devon 

3 December, 6pm. Free

Follow a candlelit pathway to join this unusual carol service. The church was built by prisoners captured during the Napoleonic Wars of 1812-14. Now, the Church of St Michael & All Angels invites the governors and inmates of neighbouring HRM Dartmoor Prison to take part in a festive celebration with local people. Wrap up warmly, as the church is 436 metres above sea level. Mulled wine and mince pies will also be served. The Trust’s Christmas cards were inspired by the lovely stained glass window at St Michael & All Angels.


Reindeer Visit

St John the Evangelist, Leeds
7 December, 12.30pm. Free for children, Adults £3

St John’s is the oldest church in Leeds city centre which will make this traditional Christmas experience even more special. St Nicholas and his reindeer will be making an appearance at the 15th century church. A bran tub of toys, Victorian-inspired arts and crafts activities and Christmas storytelling for children will also be available, while adults can enjoy mulled wine and hot soup underneath the brightly painted angels in the roof.


Christmas Tree Festival & Carols

All Saints, Vange, Essex
8 December, 3pm. Free

To mark the end of the All Saints annual Christmas Tree Festival, you are invited to sing Christmas carols and enjoy the many beautifully decorated Christmas trees on show, decked by various local groups of people. Take a look at the renovation of this peaceful 1000-year-old church while you sing along.


[tl:gallery size=450×338]

Candlelight will add to the mysterys of St Andrew’s Church, Norfolk


Carols by Candlelight

St Andrew’s Church, Frenze, Norfolk
17 December, 7pm. Free

Get your Christmas started by singing in the atmospheric St Andrew’s Carols by Candlelight celebration. This 13th-century church is located in a pretty farmyard setting. The simple building has a wonderful Tudor brick porch and bell-cote. Inside, the church contains pews which are centuries old with extravagant carvings and some beautiful brasses showing men and women in medieval dress.


[tl:gallery size=450×563]

Dickens’ opening scene in Great Expectations is set here 


Dickensian Carols by Candlelight

St James’ Church, Cooling, Kent
21 December, 6pm. Free

Dickens fans will love this beautiful church and churchyard, which inspired the author. While you enjoy St James’ Carols by Candlelight, you can let your imagination run riot, because the large churchyard of St James inspired the opening chapter of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, where the hero Pip meets Magwitch the convict. The interior of the church is light and spacious, with many unusual characteristics such as the 19th- century vestry, whose walls are lined with cockle shells.


Choir & Brass Band Carol Service

Holy Trinity, Privett, Hampshire
22 December, 6pm. Free

400 or more people usually attend this joyful service, with the Froxfield Choir and Quintessential Brass Band leading the carols. The spire of Holy Trinity soars high above the trees, visible for miles around in an idyllic corner of Hampshire. It is an extraordinary experience to find this lavishly decorated Medieval-style church with Italian marble mosaic floors in such a rural location. If you are lucky, you might even hear the lovely peal of eight bells ringing out.


Country Carol Service

St Peter & St Paul, Albury, Surrey
23 December, 5pm. Free

Mulled wine and mince pies will be served after this regal carol service St Peter and St Paul’s in the Surrey countryside. This rustic church, set among the trees of beautiful Albury Park, dates back to Saxon and Norman times. As well as exhibiting some exquisite medieval wallpaintings and monuments, the church has a royal connection, remodelled by renowned Victorian architect AW Pugin, responsible for the interior of the Palace of Westminster. 

[tl:gallery size=675×450]


Princetown’s beautiful stained glass window 




If you’d like to help save Britain’s beautiful old churches from the ravages of time, you can buy Christmas cards online from The Churches Conservation Trust. They depict parts of stained glass windows at St Michael & All Angels Church in Princetown and St Bartholomew’s Church, Lower Basildon. 



Many other ancient and beautiful churches will host candlelit services and Christmas events this year. By going along, you’ll be supporting the work of The Churches Conservation Trust, which protects historic churches at risk.  To celebrate Christmas with tradition, visit the Churches Conservation Trust’s website and find your nearest historic church.  


CCT Christmas Carol Concerts and Services: 2013

1 December, 6.00pm
Saint Andrews Church
Winterbourne Tomson, Dorset

1 December, 5.30pm
St Mary’s
Hartley Wintly, Hampshire


6 December, 6.30pm
Church of Saint John the Baptist
Burringham, Lincolnshire


8 December, 6.15pm
St Nicolas’ Church
Brockly, Somerset


8 December, 4.00pm
Saint Mary’s 
North Huish, Devon


9 December, 7.00pm
St George’s Church
Portland. Dorset

15 December, 11.00am
Church of Saint John the Baptist
Strensham, Worcestershire


15 December, 3.00pm
Church of Saint Mary Magdalene
Tortington, West Sussex

15 December, 3.00pm
Saint Mary’s Church
Chilton, Suffolk



15 December, 3.00pm
St Lawrence
Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire

19 December, 7.00pm

St George’s Church
Shimpling, Norfolk


20 December, 7.00pm
St Katherine’s Church
Chiselhampton, Oxfordshire

21 December, 7.00pm
Saint James Church
Charfield, Gloucestershire


21 December, 3.00pm
St Thomas’ Church
East Shefford, Berkshire


21 December, 7.00pm
St James’ Church
Cooling, Kent

21 December, 2.30pm
St Giles’ Church
Imber, Wiltshire


22 December, 3.00pm
St James’ Church
Strichly Village, Shropshire


22 December, 3.00pm
St Michaels Church
Clapton-in-Gordano, Somerset


22 December, 6.00pm
St Mary’s Church
Norwich, Norfolk


22 December, 4.00pm
Holy Trinity Church
Coverham, North Yorkshire

22 December, 5.00pm
Church of Saint Peter & Saint Paul
Albury, Surrey


22 December, 6.00pm
Holy Trinity Church
Privett, Hampshire

22 December, 3.00pm
Saint Benedict’s Church
Paddlesworth, Kent


22 December, 2.00pm
St Mary’s Church
West Bergholt

24 December, 3.00pm

St Margaret’s Church
Catmore, Berkshire


29 December, 6.30pm
Saint Andrews Church
Holcombe, Somerset



Kate Taylor

Practical Caravan

26 November, 2013



What are you doing for Christmas?

Chat to us on our

Practical Caravan Forum

Practical Caravan Facebook page

and Practical Caravan Twitter