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BOOKS PART 3 – Friends & Support Group Books

The next two books are both published by Essex Church charitable groups. I cannot rank one above the other, as they are both valuable in their own way.

The first, “A Guide to Essex Churches” is now long out of print, though second hand copies can still be found. It was published by the Essex Churches Support Trust, and edited by Christopher Starr. It contains information in a style that I have not seen in any other book for this county.

Rather than group information within parish, the book instead groups it by feature. It makes it very easy to look up, for example, details on Royal Arms within the county. Each section is written by different authors, and the following is a selection of the 16 chapters within the book:

  • The Gothic revival
  • Church carpentry
  • Monumental brasses
  • Funeral hatchments
  • Wall painting
  • Bells
  • Organs

This book organisation was a boon when someone contacted me via the website, and asked me whether I knew where any pre-Commonwealth Royal Arms could be found in the county. To be honest, I’d not really studied it, so even if it is not a complete list, I was able to offer the four mentioned in this one section of the book.

The second of the support group books, “Essex Churches and Chapels” is still available from Amazon – please see the BOOKS section (link at top right). It is edited by Canon John Fitch, and does not cover every church in the county. The following explanation is taken from the introduction: “To have attempted to include all the churches and chapels would have made it impossibly unwieldy and defeated our purpose”. Also, one annoyance – for me at least – is that parish prefixes like “Little” or “North” are always appended to the parish name following a comma. So LITTLE BADDOW becomes BADDOW, LITTLE. With no index or table of contents, flicking through the book can be frustrating.

What this book does offer, though, is a more free flowing narrative that the Pevsner guides. It actually makes for a more easy read than the Pevsner – mainly because it does not need to cram everything into such a restrictive volume size. Also (possibly in an attempt to replicate the feature-based organisation of the earlier Christopher Starr book) there is a chapter at the end entitled “Lists of Special Features”, which lists fonts, monuments etc. Though the chapter starts by stating that it is not an exhaustive list – and a brief glance does highlight omissions – for instance the list contains just 14 medieval fonts and 11 post-medieval fonts.

Both of these books should be on the bookshelf of any student of the county’s churches.

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