The first recorded Christian church in the UK was built in Glastonbury between AD63 and AD64. However, the oldest church currently in use is St. Martin's church in Canterbury which dates from before AD597. In the 12th and 13th centuries the church was the main focus of community life and many churches in England date from this period. Today there are around 16,000 churches in England and 43 cathedrals (see the Church of England website for more information). For more information on Christianity, visit the Religion and Ethics section of the BBC website.
Islam was not legal in the UK until 1812, but Muslims were present in the UK before this. It is thought that during the 18th century, some sailors who worked for the British East India Company settled in port towns with local wives. Due to immigration to the UK from former colonies, such as India and Pakistan, the number of Muslims grew quickly from the 1950s with large Muslim populations developing in many towns and cities (see the Wikipedia entry on Islam in the UK for more details). It is thought that the first Mosque was established at 2 Glynrhondda Street, Cathays, Cardiff, in 1860. However, The Shah Jahan mosque, built by a Dr Gottlieb Wilhelm Leitner in Woking in 1889 was, until the late 1960s, the main focal point for the London Muslim community. (see the Shah Jahan Mosque website and the British Muslim Heritage website for more information). Today there are over 1500 mosques in the UK and London is the city with the greatest number of mosques outside Turkey. For more information on Islam, visit the Religion and Ethics section of the BBC website.
The first Jewish synagogue was built in Bayswater in 1879. It is thought that early architects designed synagogues to look like Christian churches so that they would not draw attention. It is thought that there are approximately 300 synagogues in England today. For more information about Judaism, visit the Religion and Ethics section of the BBC website.
Buddhism first found its way into Britain in the 19th century through translations of scriptures from the east. In 1879 Sir Edwin Arnold compiled an epic poem, The Light of Asia, describing the Buddha's life. Wat Buddhapadipa was built in Richmond, London in 1965 and was the first Buddhist temple in the UK. In 1976, it was moved to Wimbledon (see the website of the Buddhapadipa Temple). For more information on Buddhism visit the Religion and Ethics section of the BBC website.
The first Hindu temple in Britain was built in Slough. Although the idea to build this temple came about in 1963, it wasn't until 1981 that it idea became a reality. Today, there are approximately 180 Hindu temples throughout the UK. For more information on Hinduism, visit the Religion and Ethics section of the BBC website.
Seventy nine Sinclair Road is a Georgian terrace in Shepherd's Bush, London and, from 1940 was Britain's first Sikh Gurdwara. Today there are over 200 Sikh temples in the UK with over 25% of them being located in London. For more information on Sikhism, visit the Religion and Ethics section of the BBC website.
As of the last census in 2001, there were 42 million Christians, 1.6 million Muslims, 0.5 million Hindus, 0.3 million Sikhs, 0.2 million Jews and 0.1 million Buddhists in the UK. Nine million people were noted as having ‘no religion'.