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

4.7 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (4 Sept. 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 (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 237,703 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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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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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have only dipped into this little book as I have bought it as a present for a friend, but a word of warning. Do not buy the Vintage paperback edition. The paper is of the organic, recycled green variety and has the appeal of recyled loo paper. This means that the photos and illustrations look as if they have been taken through muslin. The type face is small and that in the index even smaller, thus making it difficult to read. Add to this the difficulty of actually opening the book so that you have to hold the pages down to read them - not a book to read one-handed in bed! Such a pity, as this distracts from what should have been a lovely little book to cherish. I will order the hardcopy from my public library to read.
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Format: Hardcover
Anyone wishing to see how church architecture and spirituality were affected by political and theological developments in England should purchase this book. It is a wealth of information, extremely well written and illustrated throughout with excellent examples of church architecture.

The beauty of this book is that is explains the essence of continuity in English Christianity as perceived through the experience of ordinary worshippers and does not get embroiled with the relative merits of theological standpoints.

An excellent book, buy one for the Vicar!!!
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Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed reading this book. It is a quick read and provided me with a helpful summary of the various trends that shaped our current churches. As someone who is not religious, this helped me to better understand the strengths of particular interpretations of Christianity through the centuries as well as highlighting the destructive impact the idea of 'certainty of interpretation' can have on a society. What it left me with overall though is a better appreciation of the loss society has suffered since the demise of the central social role of Christianity in England (whether you mourn or rejoice at this loss). This is a loss our society has still to replace (if, indeed, this is what we should do) with anything as useful.
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