Upcoming lectures

Explore topics connected with our churches through our free weekly online lecture series

Our lectures are all free to get involved with and we Livestream them via our Facebook page, this allows you to really engage with the talk and to submit your questions live. These lectures are recorded and will be available to watch afterward. Scroll down to find a list of previous lectures. 

These lectures and talks are all completely free of charge for you to watch, enjoy and take part in. If you are enjoying them, please do consider making a donation here of whatever amount you feel comfortable making if you are enjoying these talks. 

In response to the popularity of our lectures, we've launched a special Membership offer just for people who are enjoying our free lectures. If you sign up as a Member by Direct Debit, from as little as just £3.50 a month, we'll send you a free copy of Matthew Byren's 'Beautiful Churches' book which includes a foreward from HRH The Prince of Wales!

Details of how to become a member, benefits of membership, and how to claim your FREE BOOK can be found here

Upcoming Lectures


Thursday 19th November - The Box of Whistles: A short history of English church organs, 1500-1900

Pipe organs have been used in English parish churches for more than a thousand years. Early organs were often small and portable. Their use changed radically at the time of the Reformation. Later organs grew in size, becoming permanent features of church buildings with architectural casework and increased numbers of keyboards and pipes. In the nineteenth century, the design and manufacture of organs was transformed by technological innovations, and the influence of changing musical taste and ecclesiology. The talk will consider particularly the evolving liturgical role of the organ in the English parish church and the architectural treatment of the organ case.

This talk is given by Nicholas Thistlethwaite who has written extensively on the history of the English organ and other aspects of church music, and his books, The making of the Victorian organ (1990) and Organ-building in Georgian and Victorian England (2020) are recognised as standard works. He has acted as consultant for the restoration or rebuilding of organs, including those in Christ Church, Spitalfields, Thaxted Parish Church, and St Edmundsbury Cathedral, and he has served on a number of fabric committees including the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England, Westminster Abbey and Canterbury Cathedral. He is Honorary President of the British Institute of Organ Studies. Dr Thistlethwaite is an Anglican Priest and currently a Chaplain to HM The Queen.

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Thursday 26th November - Ghosts of Music and Shades of Light: the use of a parish church

By taking us through a normal day in the life of an average parish church, we will explore how medieval churches were used on a daily basis and why they were therefore designed and built as they were – and then why they were modified as time went on (an aspect that frequently puzzled Pevsner) because ceremonies and music became ever more elaborate.  We'll discover that we can still signs of this in our medieval churches in England for ourselves, as we are guided round a ‘composite’ church you’ll learn how you can do this for yourself with a bit of imagination and some basic knowledge. This will add hugely to your experience of a church building, bringing it back to life irrespective of its architectural style(s), setting, or comparative poverty or affluence. Even what may seem at first glance to be the smallest and most modest of churches can show us something of their previously busy sonic and sun-lit lives.  At the other end of the scale, a large and well-staffed town church in a port or market town was the arena for an unceasing round of many different activities, from dawn to dusk.

This talk is given by Martin Renshaw. Martin is a musician, born in Leicester to a curate’s house in Cardinal’s Walk, trained as a singer at St Paul's Cathedral 1955-59 under John Dykes-Bower, then as the Cantoris tenor lay clerk at Canterbury Cathedral 1970-77 with Allan Wicks, and has spent his professional life singing as soloist or in small ensembles for festivals and other concerts : three voices (Canterbury Clerkes), four voices (Quatuor Raspiev, in Russian but based in France) and the Maîtrise de Bretagne, the Ensemble Vocal de Nantes and small church choirs in France and (currently) in London. He also sang with Kent Opera in the 1970s and was a member of the core staff of Shepway Youth Opera in the 1980s.  He has an Oxford degree in the English, Latin and Anglo-Saxon Languages and Literature, and has written many articles and lectured on organ history and more recently on medieval church and social history (see his ground-breaking web-site : Soundmedieval.org) and has to date published three books, with two more currently being written.  This is in addition to having spent all his life since a teenager restoring and making historically-based organs, and – when time allows - playing them too.

He has saved about 40 fine English organs by restoring and exporting them to continental countries, chiefly France.  He is also a French citizen and lives in London, southern Tuscany or southern Brittany, according to where work and lockdowns take him and Dr Victoria Harding, his life and research partner.  He is currently a member of the Council of the British Institute of Organ Studies and is setting up a small Trust to put historic organs in unexpected places, possibly including CCT churches

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Thursday 3rd December - Christmas Ghosts

For centuries, the telling of ghost stories was an activity associated with the Twelve Days of Christmas - the period between Christmas Eve and Twelfth Night (Epiphany), when households would feast through the long winter nights and entertain one another with chilling tales. The tradition survived into more recent times, and is associated above all with Charles Dickens and M. R. James, both of whom routinely terrified their audiences with new ghost stories at Christmas. This talk explores the origins of the association between ghosts and the festive season and the development of the Christmas ghost story.

This lecture is given by Dr Francis Young who has kindly agreed to return to give a second lecture following the popularity of his talk on Macabre Church Lore in October. Dr Young is a historian and folklorist, the author of 14 books, and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

His most relevant book to on this subject is his edition of Bogie Tales of East Anglia by Margaret James: https://www.lulu.com/shop/m-h-james/bogie-tales-of-east-anglia/paperback/product-23997925.html

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Thursday 3rd December at 7pm - The CCT Annual Lecture: Holy Inappropriate? “Secular” uses of the medieval church

In fifteenth-century Norfolk, a rector and Master of Corpus Christi College in Cambridge, bequeathed camping-land to his local parish for playing games, such as running and shooting. And this was far from an isolated event.

Dances, dogs, football, bartering, trading, courting and gossiping: not how one would typically describe the everyday happenings of the medieval church—but this is no incorrect picture. Throughout the past, our ecclesiastical buildings and lands have been used for a multitude of what we may term “secular” activities or, at least, non-specifically devotional purposes. While the church was of course the holiest of places, ecclesiastical property was not often considered an entirely separate and sacred world—but rather a domain where the secular and sacred crossed paths. In this talk, we will consider an array of these fascinating and sometimes frankly shocking examples. It hopes to be a captivating adventure into the intersecting world of the cultural and religious history of medieval Christendom—one you may not have been privy to before.

Dr. Emma J. Wells, Lecturer in Ecclesiastical and Architectural History at the University of York, will deliver the 2020 Candida Lycett Green Memorial Lecture - Holy Inappropriate? “Secular” uses of the medieval church.

The event is named in honour of the late Candida Lycett Green, renowned author, journalist, conservation campaigner and critically acclaimed editor of her father John Betjeman's letters. A lifelong campaigner for conservation, Candida was a commissioner for English Heritage and a much valued supporter and Vice President of the Churches Conservation Trust.

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Monday 7th December - ANGELS a history

'In a 2016 poll, one in 10 Britons claimed to have experienced the presence of an angel, while one in three remain convinced that they have a guardian angel. These are huge numbers and mean that, on some counts, angels are doing better than God.’

In his latest book which launches on 3rd December 2020, Author and Journalist Peter Stanford's 'Angels: A History' searches out the origins of angels in religious thought, history, psychology and wider culture, and asks why, in an age of disbelief, they remain more compelling and comforting for many than God.

In the secular, sceptical, post-Christian world of the West, continuing faith in angels is both anomaly and comfort. But what exactly are angels, and why have so many in different times and contexts around the globe believed in them? What is their history and role in the great faiths and beyond their walls? Are angels something real, a manifestation of divine concern? Or part of the poetry of religion? And can they continue to illuminate a deeper truth about human existence and the cosmos?

These are not new questions. They have been asked over millennia, right up to the present day, as writer, journalist and broadcaster Peter Stanford explores in Angels, his latest investigation into the history, theology and cultural significance of religious ideas and in this free hour lecture, Peter will explore some of the themes and topics featured in his latest book which will be hot off the press.

Peter Stanford is a senior features writer at the Daily and Sunday Telegraph titles, and contributes to the Independent, the Observer, the Daily Mail and the Tablet. He has presented programmes on BBC 1, Channel 4 and Channel 5, as well as BBC Radios 2 and 4 and the BBC World Service.

Peter Stanford's previous investigations into the history, theology, enduring appeal and cultural significance of religious ideas include: What we Talk
about when we Talk about Faith; Martin Luther: Catholic Dissident; Judas: The Troubling History of the Renegade Apostle.

ANGELS A History
Peter Stanford
Hodder & Stoughton
3rd December 2020

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Thursday 10th December - Christmas: Tradition, Truth and Total Baubles

We are all haunted by the ghost of Christmas as-it-never-was…Nick Page ditches the festive fake news!

“If the story of Christmas tells us one thing, it’s that human beings are always inventing ‘ancient’ traditions…”. So says Nick Page, who rummages (on our behalf) through a sleigh-full of festive fake news that we pass around each year …along with those unwanted presents.

Some of it is historical: ‘Christians “stole” the date of Christmas from an existing Roman festival’; some is folkloric: ‘mistletoe is a Druidic ritual’; some to do with social history: ‘Santa Claus was invented by Coca-Cola’ or ‘Prince Albert introduced Christmas trees to Britain’. Christians also pile it on thick, each year singing carols telling us there were three kings or that Jesus was born in a stable, where a drummer boy arrived and was, apparently, welcomed with open arms. But it’s all utter baubles.

Combining in-depth historical research with cheerfully irreverent humour, Nick saves us from ourselves and, along the way, discovers why every advent calendar is wrong, how innkeepers have been unfairly maligned for thousands of years and… just what the deal is with sprouts. With any luck, we’ll explore what this festival really means and how we can get back to something real and true beneath all the wrapping.

Prized for his skills as a writer, speaker, unlicensed historian, applied ranter and general information monger, former BBC comedy writer Nick Page has written over 70 books, including most recently, his NEARLY INFALLIBLE HISTORY series.

You'll be able to purchase a copy of Nick's brand new book shortly through our website. The sale of these books will help us to conserve and protect our historic churches across England.

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Thursday 17th December - Curses, Legends & Murder: Folklore & Strange Tales of Thomas Becket

On 29 December 1170, four knights, believing the king wanted a turbulent Priest dealt with, confronted and murdered Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. Becket’s murder sent shockwaves across Europe and led to the establishment of one of Europe’s most popular and miraculous Cults and to his canonisation as a Saint.

Join us as we explore Becket's miracles, and the healing powers ascribed to his Cult. We will examine church dedications to Becket made as penance by his murderers (and the lack of basis of most of them), legends and myths attached to his murderers including ghosts etc, and we will also delve into the possible origins of the story that Becket cursed a Kentish village in such a way that all newborn children would grow tales. Join us and Mark Norman as we explore all this and much more!

Mark Norman is a folklore researcher and author based in Devon. He is a council member of The Folklore Society and the creator and host of The Folklore Podcast. Starting with humble beginnings five years ago, the podcast has now been downloaded over 1.1 million times and is placed within the top 10% of shows in its genre worldwide by audience.

Mark holds the UKs largest archive of sightings, traditions and eyewitness accounts pertaining to spectral apparitions of Black Dogs. His first book, 'Black Dog Folklore' remains the only full study of the subject by an individual author. This year, Mark's latest book was published by The History Press - "Telling the Bees and other customs: The folklore of rural craft"

Links for books:

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