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Nine million people visit England's ancient cathedrals

 New research has revealed that around nine million people visited England's Anglican cathedrals in 2003 - two million more than visited Blackpool Pleasure Beach, five million more than went on the London Eye and almost twice as many as visited the British Museum in the same year. This is just one of many findings in a report on the value of England's cathedrals launched this week as part of Heritage Counts, an annual audit of the historic environment carried out by English Heritage on behalf of the sector. The research, which was commissioned jointly by English Heritage and the Association of English Cathedrals, provides the first comprehensive evidence of the substantial economic and social contribution made by cathedrals in their local communities. Cathedrals are first and foremost places of worship, and well recognised as places of great spirituality and beauty, but until now little consideration has been given to the boost that their presence gives to the local economy and the range of opportunities they offer for education, events and volunteering. Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said: "Our cathedrals are at the very heart of England's heritage and, as this new study shows, their contribution reaches far beyond bricks and mortar. In an increasingly complex world, these great edifices are vital forces for social cohesion and focal points for both celebration and mourning, not just in their cities, nbut in the large areas they serve." The Very Revd Colin Slee, Dean of Southwark and a member of the Association of English Cathedrals Executive, said: "We welcome this report which is published during our busiest time of the year!" Source: English Heritage