Submitted by Name: Chris Gray From: Tredegar, South Wales E-mail: Contact
Comments: This website is SUCH a valuable resource. Thank you for putting in the time and effort. We have visited many of the sites around the Marches and are off to East Yorks next week...where we will take in a few more beakheads and Norman fonts. I'm working on some lino blocks of my sketchbook pages and the intention is to turn them into textile pieces (eventually). Hopefully not more for the UFO pile!!
Added: July 17, 2016
Submitted by Name: Linda Hall From: Redwick, Monmouthshire E-mail: Contact
Comments: Great website and wonderful photos. I look forward to exploring it. Just one comment for now; I really don't think you can say that Kilpeck is almost unknown. I'd have thought it was one of the best-known Norman churches in the country; it's certainly referred to in virtually every book on church architecture that I've ever seen. What is always totally ignored however is its wonderful C17 West Gallery, which is clearly a singers' and musicians' gallery with what may be unique balustrades separating the three tiers. To me Kilpeck is as important for this feature as it is for its wonderful carvings.
Admin reply: Linda, your point is well-made and you are right to say that it is ubiquitous in church literature. I meant it within the context of the general public. The most ruined castles, the most mediocre "stately" homes and the most ordinary gardens get coachloads of excited visitors yet Kilpeck and our fantastic parish church heritage in general are largely unknown to the public. If they were then perhaps the churches could get more funding for essential repairs? I'm not someone who thinks that the taxpayer should be shelling out to support other people's hobbies (do I hear Covent Garden? Dutch old masters in private houses?) but there is a church in most of our backyards and I wish there was greater public awareness of that part of our heritage. As matters stand, I live two miles from Tickencote but most people in Stamford who adore their Georgian town have no idea that there is a Norman church up the road. There is a substantial ruin of a Norman Abbey 200 metres from Morrisons but public awareness is zilch and it is opened once a year! But you are right. Kilpeck might be the most celebrated parish church of them all amongst the cognoscenti. I apologise for the fact that I too overlooked the west gallery! Do visit all those wonderful Herefordshire school churches. They are awesome. Lionel
Added: June 23, 2016
Submitted by Name: Elizabeth watkins From: West yorkshire E-mail: Contact
Comments: You've replaced Simon Jenkins! What an absolutley wonderful site & commentary!! Off to Cumbria tomorrow to have at a look at a couple of the churches that I've missed but huge thanks to you, I'm really excited to see. Keep up the good work!
Admin reply: Elizabeth, that's a lovely compliment and I do thank you for it but SJ gave so much to the cause of church visiting, didn't he? How many people now visit churches just because they got his book in their Christmas stockings? One thousand churches - and that's just the ones he included. Mind you, doing it for money (and I'm sure love as well) and being Chairman of English Heritage did give him certain advantages! My advantage is that I can write about what I like and be a bit irreverent when I feel like it. I can also put in as many photos as I like. I honestly prefer to have those freedoms. But Simon's work is awesome and we all owe him a huge debt. I'm in Cumbria myself next week.
Added: June 19, 2016
Submitted by Name: Paul Dolan From: Birmingham E-mail: Contact
Comments: Congratulations on the website, and the texts - opinionated but coinciding with mine, so can't be too bad, and even Pevsner couldn't criticise them, let alone Simon Jenkins. Perhaps churches you describe as " excluded" by him should be categorised as "deserving addition" if there is ever a second 'thousand best churches'. We will now try to visit the only two of your top rated churches that we haven't, as your other ratings are spot on. On fonts, to us Pevsner's "barbaric" seems a term of puzzled approval and an incentive to see the carving. Finally, the photos are superb: how on earth did you succeed with the lighting??
Admin reply: Paul. Thank you for your kind words. As far as photography is concerned the key is to use flash only when you absolutely can't do without it! It just washes away all the detail so I use it only in extremis. My Sony digital SLR has inbuilt image stabilisation that allows me to get away with otherwise impossible exposures. All of the images I am going to use are then bulk Photoshop-ed just to get them down to much smaller sizes suitable for the web - otherwise pages would take forever to download. Then it's a case of using Photoshop's exposure adjustment feature to lighten the many that are just a bit too dark.
Added: May 24, 2016
Submitted by Name: Peter Hirsch From: Vienna, Austria E-mail: Contact
Comments: Thank you for a very good description of St. Lawrence in Castle Rising which we visited in April 2016. We learned a lot.
About St. Felix: I thought the Allegation to Felix Comes from the scientific Name of the cat tribe, Felis.
Thank you again! Peter Hirsch
Admin reply: Peter, lovely to hear from someone in Austria! Well, it's interesting, isn't it? I understand that "Felix" was synonymous with "luck" or "successful" in Roman times. I rather doubt that so many distinguished churchmen derived their names from the domestic cat. However, there is the possibility that whoever carved the font mistakenly thought the name derived for the Latin for cat. Better still, it might be satirical! I tend to the latter idea because all the indications are rhat the North West Norfolk group of fonts were carved under monastic instruction - probably from Binham Priory in my view. The monks were perfectly capable of satire and thought it was rather a good joke to conflate Felix and Felis. On the other hand, they may not be cats at all, of course although "cat masks" were common enough decorations.
Added: May 23, 2016
Submitted by Name: Rosemary Fisher From: Corinth, Mississippi USA E-mail: Contact
Comments: You web page is valuable for those of us who hope to be able to roam the English villages and countrysides. We have visited the large cities and major tourist attractions, and were hoping to be able to treat ourselves to one of the "parish holidays" that were available a decade or so ago. Can you tell me if there is any way to connect with one at this stage? I cannot find anything on the www, and I do so want a leisurely, self-guided visit. Thank you. Rosemary Fisher
Admin reply: I'm sorry, Roesmary, but the "Parish Holiday" concept seems to have disappeared. It sounded good fun!
Added: May 18, 2016
Submitted by Name: Phil From: Saffron Walden E-mail: Contact
Comments: Hi Lionel
I was fortunate to come across your site after Googling "best books on English churches" and was sufficiently impressed by your site, knowledge, and obvious enthusiasm for the subject to commence my own library resource today with the purchase of the Simon Jenkins tome which you recommend. I purchased my "nearly new" copy for £4.99 at a charity shop. It is indeed an excellent primer. I will gradually work my way down your book list, time and opportunity permitting.
The local churches I attend are in the benefice of Widdington, Quendon, and Rickling in Essex, although I often visit other local parish churches, and of course churches further afield when holidaying. I am sure that my increasing insight and understanding of parish churches will add greatly to my future enjoyment when visiting churches.
Thanks for sharing your knowledge!
Admin reply: Phil, thanks for your feedback. My book in a Saffron Walden charity shop? Good heavens! Was it the big Oxfam one?
Added: May 6, 2016
Submitted by Name: Judy From: London E-mail: Contact
Comments: You communicate your excitement so well. Now time for some face to face encounters with these lively images!
Admin reply: Thanks, Judy. I call it "The Subject". As in "once you start me off on THE SUBJECT you can't get me to stop". I'm a bit a messianic about it all (no blasphemy intended). I want people to know what sort of secrets and histories are lurking in their local churches!
Added: April 11, 2016
Submitted by Name: Alan From: Nottingham
Comments: Really enjoying your site as I make my way around various churches in Rutland.
Admin reply: Rutland's a very underestimated county, Alan. Hope you enjoy it. Do look at the "Demon Carvers & Mooning Men" page. I'd hate for you to miss the carvings!
Added: April 8, 2016
Submitted by Name: Cynthia Bressani From: Doncaster, S Yorkshire E-mail: Contact
Comments: I am preparing for a holiday in Northumberland, and will be stopping off in Durham. I have just found your page on Escomb Church - a definite must see.
Admin reply: Gosh, Cynthia, Escomb is just wonderful! It's hardly changed in 1400 years and I think even the most hardened cynic (which I'm sure you are not!) would feel some spirituality there. Northumberland is a bit like ancient Wiltshire (Avebury, West Kennet, Silbury Hill and the rest). It sends shiver upo your spine to think of its past. Do enjoy Escomb. Last time I was there you had to get the key from a house across the road. Lionel