Church spires (England)

A friend of mine has suggested that, in England, no matter where you are, from the top of a church spire you will always be able to see at least part of another church. Is this known to be true?

When this friend of yours claimed that, did you pause to consider if it’s possible?

Just in case that you didn’t know it, I can tell you that there are parts of England that are uninhabited. There are also small villages, surrounded by hilly farmland. Some of these villages are in valleys, and it’s not possible to see the next village. Some of them have only one church. From such a church it would be very unlikely if you were able to see another church, don’t you think?

Not that I’ve personally climbed every (or any) church spire in England, but it’s safe to consider it a UL (or blatant lie).


Unless you’re in Norfolk, where I’m quite sure it’s true.

I’ve never heard this one but it doesn’t seem to me completely implausible, although I doubt anyone has ever checked.

We probably need to qualify the claim in several ways. I suspect that the claim really relates only to parish churches and that refers to a time when all parish churches were fully functioning. We probably also need to count chapels of ease, especially as these existed specifically in parishes where some inhabitants lived at a distance from the parish church. I suspect also that ‘spires’ need to include towers etc. as there were some parts of the country where spires were never the local fashion.

A claim that you could usually see another church from the top of an English parish church would probably be incontestable. Almost all historic English parishes were very small. Most measured no more than a few miles across. Only in the furtherest north were some parishes bigger than that and even then there were few churches or chapels more than five miles from the next. (There were places which were much further from a church but that’s not what matters in this context.) I suspect however that there will have been a few cases where the landscape would have blocked the view of any nearby churches.

It doesn’t seem too implausible, there are alot of churches in England (about 50,000, which is ~1 per sq. mile)and quite often church spires are the tallest buildings. Certainly in my experince you would be able to see a another church spire from most church spires in England. But on the other hand I’m sure that there must be at least a handful of churches where this is not true.

This may depend on what we count as a spire. Many churches in England have square towers instead.

I strongly suspect that you can’t see any part of another church from the roof of St. Helen Bishopsgate, though, due to it being surrounded by buildings taller that itself and that is very likely to apply to other churches in large towns and cities.

oops that 50,000 figure for shurches is for the whole UK (in 1992), which probably means the actual figures more like 35,000.

It’s wrong. IIRC, there’s a village in Derbyshire called Edale, the start of the Pennine way, with a Church, yet you cannot see another village even when climbing up the surrounding hills.

Thixendale in the Yorkshire Wolds is set into a a large dip, all you can see in every direction is hillside and sky.

I can think of other counter-examples: coastal locations such as Whitby or Lyme Regis, where the village is inset and below the general cliff level, so you can’t see other nearby settlements.