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Old Churches and Cathedrals of England

Review By Cheryl Bolen

The Observer Book of Old English Churches
Lawrence E. Jones
Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd., 1965

The Cathedrals of England
Harry Batsfor and Charles Fry
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1935

Though both these books provide a wealth of description and illustrations of England's old churches and cathedrals, they are vastly different.

Old English Churches is not the pictorial one expects (although there are many photographs). This undersized little gem is full of interesting tidbits about England's old churches. For instance, all the old churches were expected to have attached graveyards, called churchyards, that were accessed through a lynch-gate. Prior to the Reformation, the churchyards featured large stone crosses.

In another section on "Materials" it is noted that the churches were built with the stone found in their region: gray limestone from Somerset to east Yorkshire. In Norfolk and Suffolk, flint is the material used. In the extreme northwest of England, the building stones are of slate.

In the section on "Family Pews" it was interesting to learn that some of these had furniture and even private fireplaces!

Exterior gargoyles were added to redirect rain water from gutter spouts, and priest doors were almost always located on the south side of the chancel while Easter sepulchres were always on the north of the chancel.

It's worth tracking the book down on the internet just for the diagram of a church with comprehensive labels arrowing to every single architectural detail and every nook and cranny of these old churches.

The Cathedrals of England is exactly what one expects. History and description of England's 26 major cathedrals is given. Another section is devoted to the parish-church cathedrals, such as in Birmingham, Manchester and Coventry, and the modern cathedrals in Truro, Liverpool and Guildford are also treated in this volume. Many illustrations, including drawings of the layout of the cathedrals, appear.

For Anglophiles, both books are a nice addition to your library.

This article was first published in The Quizzing Glass in November 2009.

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