The BIG Churches Festival #ChurchesFest2016

Lincolnshire's 2017 Open Churches Festival will happen over two weekends: 13-14th and 20-21st May. Over 90 churches are expected to take part. 

This website's content relates to events that happened in May 2016, and has been left in place to give a very good picture of what to expect in 2017!

2016 sees the May West Lindsey Churches Festival celebrate its 20th year, in which time it has grown to become one of the largest open churches festivals in Europe. The 2016 festival has also involved a record number of churches this year, with 94 taking part this year.

This free-entry event invites visitors to enjoy the rich heritage that each church offers alongside a host of activities, with 24 churches offering lunches, one offering “Breakfast in the Aisle” (Riby), 19 offering music recitals (mostly organ music with free entry), plus bell ringing, crafts, book sales, art displays and themed exhibitions.

This year the festival takes place on 7-8th May (churches to the East of the district) and 14-15th May (churches to the West). Full details can be found on this website, with a page dedicated to each church.

Festival organizer Linda Patrick explains the appeal of the festival: “Many of the churches are still the focal point of our villages and will provide you with an insight into the history and life of their parishes.  Others offer a vibrant collection of stained glass, architecture, carvings and artefacts.  And some of our smaller churches open their doors simply to provide you with an oasis of peace and spirituality.”
East Barkwith

She also explained how this year she has asked the churches to look into their histories: “New for 2016 is our ‘Stories Unlocked’ theme, and there’s local intrigue and mystery aplenty as we uncover some hidden stories that our churches have kept so secret over many years!”

Over 30 churches have dug into the archives and put forward a huge variety of stories including:

Gautby’s intriguing Vyer family, with a story that includes kidnapping, ransom and murder
Snelland’s vicar Thomas Retford and his involvement in the Lincolnshire Uprising
Scotton’s convict William Jacklin who was transported to Australia and became a founder of the first Presbyterian church in the town of Ebenezer
Kettlethorpe’s association with Katherine Swynford, the 3rd wife of John of Gaunt, well known from Anya Seton’s famous novel Katherine
Thoresway and the mystery of the Pagan drowning pool
Scothern and the hidden treasure of the Abbot of Barlings Abbey

These stories will be appearing on the festival website in the run up to the event, and available to read in the churches when people visit.

Festival chair Paul Howitt-Cowan commented on the festival's continued success: “Last year visitor numbers had increased by 1,536 to 7,229, and volunteer numbers were up from 456 to 639 – 183 more. With a record 94 churches taking part this year, we hope these figures will go up again and I encourage everyone to get involved: these buildings really are little gems of heritage, scattered across Lincolnshire."
Full details of the festival can be found on the website, where it is also possible to download the 48 page brochure and browse an interactive Google map of all 94 church locations.

Visitors are asked to upload their photos to the hashtag #ChurchestFest16 so they can be shared by the festival. Printed brochures are also in libraries and tourist information centers in Lincolnshire, and can be posted out on request, by sending name and address details to

The festival is sponsored by West Lindsey District Council and Systematic Print Management.

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