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A Little History Of The English Country Church Paperback – 4 Sep 2008


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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (4 Sep 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844138305
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844138302
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.6 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 95,119 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"[A] treasure of a book...riveting... If the loss of our lovely country churches strikes you as tragic then I urge you to read Strong's passionately penned book and to pass it around among your friends" (Val Hennessy Daily Mail)

"Riveting... Strong tells this story with expertise and a highly readable style. He always shows the physical presence of the church as a building in the context of its time. Anyone who ever enters a church and wonders why it has come to look exactly as it does will find an answer within these pages" (Literary Review)

"Anyone with the slightest interest in the English parish church, of its life today, or its history - or who is only conscious of the same draw of curiosity they give out- will be intrigued, informed and enchanted by this lucid, and occasionally provocative, account" (Country Life)

"A charmingly produced book... Roy Strong's style, too, is gentle while erudite, affectionate but realistic... His intimate knowledge of one of England's most neglected institutions is profound" (Sunday Express)

"Strong's short but rich history of the country church will be a great help in understanding the changes to the physical fabric of our churches over the last five centuries" (Daily Telegraph)

Review

`a modest title for a book that provides a cleverly concise narrative of the history of Christian worship in England'.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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46 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Rupert H. W. Barnes on 19 July 2008
Format: Hardcover
Periodically books are written on the subject of the parish churches in England. The wealth of beautiful churches that this country has is one of the most unappreciated aspects of England's architectural heritage and many urban and rural parishes are struggling in the upkeep of these edifices, some of which are of cathedral like proportions to services villages of a few hundred. This is the motivation that Roy Strong states in his introduction for writing this book - to highlight the country church's plight and highlight the challenges we will face to preserve them in the twenty first century. Whereas the twentieth century saw the preservation of the country house, the twenty first century will have to deal with the challenge of preserving the parish church building.

The book is however mainly an overview of the way that the building and in particular the furnishings of English parish churches have changed from the early medieval era which saw church interiors lavishly decorates and furnished through the period of the Reformation and the Commonwealth which saw the destruction of a massive amount of church art and furnishings which tracked the interpretation of Protestant theology in its manifestation in the decoration and liturgy of the parish church. The book describes in vivid detail the rituals and ceremonies at the heart of the parish throughout history tracing their changes with the contemporary religious and political events that occurred in England, particularly momentous events such as the Reformation and subtle changes brought about by the Oxford Movement in the mid nineteenth century which has shaped the liturgy and decoration of modern parish churches to this day.

The book however is popularist rather than academic.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Michael Calum Jacques on 21 Nov 2008
Format: Paperback
The author of this book, Sir Roy Strong, former Director of the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum, is also a broadcaster, and has written a number of bestselling books which include The Story of Britain, The Cult of Elizabeth and The Spirit of Britain.

This book attempts to narrate the complex history and development of the English parish church "...from the first buildings erected in Anglo-Saxon times to its uncertain future in the twenty-first century." That is to undertake quite a task and the author has made a jolly good job of it!

The book has been described as a "richly illustrated elegy, and a plea for the preservation of the country church." Indeed, Strong's book really is both at once a celebration of the English country church - and a passionate plea for its conservation. The author entertainingly and anecdotally relates the dramatic ebb and flow of the English parish church, through its various epochs and vicissitudes.

The reader really does feel as though he or she is actually engaged in a voyage through time; from the arrival of those Catholic missionaries who systematically erected crosses here and there to mark the places where they preached, to the beautiful architecture and aureate pseudo-spirituality of medieval Christianity; from the tumult of the Reformation to the times of the 'squarson', the sedate, gentrified type of cleric we encounter in the works of Jane Austen: we are swept along on a journey of discovery and rediscovery.

This book is an enlightening and an invigorating yarn and this reviewer can heartily commend it to prospective readers.

Michael Calum Jacques
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Margaret Boulton on 28 July 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
this is an excellent if not erudite book. It is not especially an easy read but is so full of interesting facts. I would recommend it to anyone interested in English Parish Churches.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A. Farrin on 13 Feb 2009
Format: Paperback
Dr Roy Strong gives an overview of the changes in the English Church as they affected the Parish Churches and the people. We are reminded of the traumas for the people as change that they do not understand is forced on them. He writes as a distinguished historian and as a practicing Anglican Christian.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. J. A. Carruthers on 2 Oct 2010
Format: Paperback
An easy-to-read and informative book which tracks the changes upon church architecture and interior furnishings which were the result of continuous intervention from the monarchy (think Henry VIII) and notable reformers (think eg Wesley).I would have happily paid more for a book with better quality illustrations as some are indistinct and do not support the excellent text.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dermot Elworthy on 16 Mar 2009
Format: Paperback
That quietude and sense of belonging to be found in most English country churches is something very precious. It is easy to forget that the apparent timelessness is born of centuries of evolution and, occasionally, revolution.

Sir Roy Strong's history, whilst displaying his characteristically scholarly approach, does not pretend to the highest academic accuracy so he is able to allow himself some historical assumptions. In this he follows his inspirational lead; Eamonn Duffy's "The Stripping of the Altars" - a work not without its own assumptions - to provide an excellent little book serving to remind us in a delightfully readable fashion that things were not always so ordered. I think, along with the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and Hymns A&M on the table inside the country church door, should be found (for sale) copies of this small volume to remind congregants and visitors alike not only of the history of the institution and the inestimable value of a genre uniquely English but also the degree in which it currently is imperiled.

The future of these buildings in what seems a burgeoning post-Christian era - the subject with which Strong (with little enthusiasm) concludes the book - should be a matter for urgent national debate. The church's function is and should continue as a place of worship but demographic shifts and fundamental changes in rural life have pushed many churches towards a functional obsolescence.
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