I daresay that some might disagree with me, but if I truly had to have just two books with which to continue my studies of Essex Churches, then the first, as I have already written, would be the new Buildings of England: Essex – by Dr James Bettley. The second, however, would be Andy Barham’s fabulous book, The Lost Parish Churches of England.
Andy’s book was original published by Ian Henry Publications back in 2000, and has been out of print from soon afterwards. You may be able to find a paper copy online at the likes of Amazon or Abebooks. But just a few months back, I heard from Andy that he has brought this book right back up to date, and has released it on Amazon’s Kindle. If you’ve never owned, seen or read Andy’s book, it really is a must-have. And of course, the benefit of a Kindle edition is that it can come with you on tours of the county. The link to this book is at the bottom of this post.
Why is it so good then? Since originally buying this book, I have had the good fortune to be able to converse with and then meet Andy. This book was the culmination of many trips across the county, which he undertook throughout most of the 1990s with renowned historian Ian Yearsley. They both covered every parish church in the county, though Andy specifically wanted to write the lost churches book.
This book will make you aware of some absolute gems of churches. Some now demolished; some still standing, but in a far from holy state; and others, preserved and maintained. Like St Michael, Pitsea, which was still standing when Andy started the description of that church, but was demolished by the end (December 1998).
It was better news for All Saints, Vange, which in the brief write up, was described as “now closed and its future does not look promising”. Fortunately for that church, and all who love it, it was taken into the care of the Churches Conservation Trust, and is now a preserved monument, available for all to enjoy.
Andy’s Lost Churches book, along with Dr Bettley’s ‘Pevsner’ really will give you 80-90% of what you will ever want to know about churches in the county of Essex.