Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Harris's Guide to Churches and Cathedrals

[An image showing Harris's Guide to Churches and Cathedrals]"Harris's Guide to Churches and Cathedrals" is a fine new reference book to many of the most interesting Christian places of worship in England and Wales.

It is compiled by Brian L. Harris.

Over 500 of these fascinating buildings are listed, in an alphabetical format. I always believe that this is best, as subdivisions into "East Anglia", "The South", "East Midlands" etc beg the question of where you take the borders to be. Dividing into counties is better, but then you have to dcide whether you mean the counties as they are now, or as they were for example before 1974.

Of course, it is Harris's personal selection, and I suspect that many readers will wonder at certain omissions. For example, I find it hard to believe that he doesn't find the astonishing survival of St. Peter-ad-Murum Church, which St. Cedd built at Bradwell-juxta-Mare in about 650, worthy of inclusion. And then I would include interesting churches at Bakewell, Easby, Leicester and Skipton. But again, it's Harris's own selection.

The entries themselves are made in a very easy to read way. Instead of having long paragraphs through which one has to wade to find interesting facts, he uses a sort of bullet point system. Each bullet contains a fairly short sentence dealing with a particular fact. Very well done.

Thus under Ashby-de-la-Zouch, there is reference to the unique finger pillory in St. Helens Church. I usually demonstrate this on Guided Walks around the town.

Under Bamburgh (St. Aidan's Church), we learn that Aidan himself died here in 651.

Under Cambridge (King's College Chapel), we learn that after its founder Henry VI was murdered in the Tower of London the work was continued using a different stone.

There are also articles about various subjects, including Bridge Chapels, Thatched Churches,The Three Living and the Three Dead Kings, Bells, and Dedications.

This last gives some unusual information about rare dedications, as opposed to the usual St. John, St. Mary, St. Peter etc. There are just a handful of churches dedicated to such saints as St. Birinus, St. Edward King and Martyr, St. Felix and St. Wistan, while only one church each remembers saints such as St. Egelwin, St. Ethelburga and St. Hardulph. Probably the most bizarre dedication of them all is The Beheading of St. John the Baptist, which features at both Doddington in Kent and Westbourne in West Sussex.

I have already given this book a good deal of use.