When I First Met Slippery Jim DiGriz
Closing the Books

A View of the Church

Observer's Book of Old English ChurchesThe cover photo is of All Saints church, at Feering, in Essex.

Another post on The Observer's Book series.

This is a book I've owned and found very useful for quite a while; The Observer's Book of Old English Churches.

While I was researching for this post, I found that there’s a rare version of this book, with the cover in a glossy finish; I’ve seen it for sale for £118! But my 1965 copy with the same cover design is worth just what I paid for it; £3.50.

That’s okay; it means that I don’t mind taking it with me when I‘m working on my blog, The North Bucks Wanderer.

This is what the book is intended for. The general arrangement of this book is designed with this in mind; the contents list is not in page order. Instead the list is in alphabetical order, so that you can easily find the right section.

One good clue to the age of a church is the design of the windows. The contents list directs me to pages 56 to 67, where the windows are described in period order, starting with the tiny windows of Saxon times.

Flowing tracery  Great HorwoodPage 63; the flowing tracery design of the East window at St. James' church, Great Horwood. 1965 or earlier.

There are plenty of clear line illustrations of examples, including one of the East window of Great Horwood church, just eight miles from me.

The book says that it’s a good example of a flowing tracery window. These sorts of windows were built late in the decorated period of church design. That is, around 1360 to 1377.

The old guide to the church says the window was installed in the late 14th Century which pretty much agrees with this book.. The stained glass, though, was installed in 1886.

I’ve usually found that an older church can have windows from several periods, as new windows were inserted into older walls, or the church was enlarged. But there’s often a window or two that hasn’t been updated or replaced, or at least the evidence of one, inside or outside.

Flowing tracery East windowThe church of St. James, Great Horwood. The East window, this week.

Sometimes you’ll find Victorian churches that look convincingly old, but one good clue is that the windows are all in the same style.

Another clue is that the roofs are often extremely steep, steeper than they would be in the days when churches had thatched roofs.

Great Horwood East window  stained glassThe same window from the inside.

With the contents list is a list of English architectural periods, so if the book tells you a feature is Early English, you know it dates from around 1189 to 1280. There’s also an illustration showing how churches typically develop to help you in working out what’s happened with the church you are looking at.

It’s right at the front of the book, “Features to Look For in an Old English Church”. It’s very useful.

Observer's churchesFeatures to look for...

The book’s all set up for easy reference, just what The Observers series was designed for, and it fits in the pocket. As it said on the first Observers Books, Popular price, Suitable for carrying in the pocket, Accurate pictures.

There are lots of pictures in the Observers Book of Old English Churches, both line drawings and photographs. There’s an index of illustrations so that you can see if a local church is featured.

Just the job.

Ready to look at churchesAll ready to go and look at some churches.

The Observer's Book of Old English Churches, by Lawrence E. Jones, illustrations by A. S. B. New.


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