Investigate your church

There are many ways you can find out about the date of your church. You can work out the date of the gravestones, look through the parish records or look at the architecture of the church itself.


Woodstock Young Archaeologists Club looking at gravestonesYour class will be split into two. Group A will do a survey of the gravestones in the church and churchyard. On a plan of the church and churchyard Group A must draw the location of each gravestone and mark its date. Where are the oldest gravestones? Which is the oldest gravestone?


Group B must look through the parish records, which the vicar or parish council should keep, unless they are in the County Archives. Look for records of buildings works so you can date different bits of the church. What does the earliest record say? This group can also look out for a memorial recording all the vicars for the parish. Many churches have these and they can go back to the Saxon period. However, the church may have been completely rebuilt since then.


St Peter's church, BurnhamBoth Group A & Group B can survey the church itself. Group A will record the outside and Group B will record the inside of the church. Each group will draw pictures of each side of the church, making sure that windows are drawn accurately and that any patches of different stone or brick or wall paintings are noted. Once you have accurate drawings compare them with the checklist of church architecture to work out what date/s your church was built.


The church in its surroundings

To find out how important the church was you need to survey the land around it. The class will be split into groups and each will have a task.


  • Group A: Measure the height of the nave and the tower or spire.
  • Group B: Measure the length and breadth of the church.
  • Group C: Calculate the length of the churchyard wall and the area of land it contains.
  • Group D: Draw a plan of the church in its local setting. Where are the houses in relation to the church? Is there an open space in front of the church? Is it set back from the road? Is it on top of a hill? Are there any buildings bigger than the church in the immediate area? What date are they?

Go back to find out more Archaeological skills and concepts or Changes in the landscape.