Churchcrawling Trails: West Derbyshire’s Three Titans

Derbyshire is an overlooked county for churches. Alec Clifton-Taylor in his English Parish Churches as Works of Art (a book which I’ve nearly really understood the point of and is enjoyable and frustrating in equal measure) says it is “not a very distinguished county for churches” and that there was “much insensitive Victorian restoration”. The latter being something you could say about essentially any partly industrialised Midlands county. Or the Home Counties, for that matter.

Derby is one of very few CofE dioceses with creeping urbanisation limiting the amount of unlocked churches that has recently started to really push the idea of ecclesiastical tourism Many parishes display roadside “church open to experience and explore” banners branded by the diocese which is just dandy really. The Peak District itself is breath-taking: these churches go up to the southern edge of its wildest parts. On the lowlands towards Ashbourne, the stonewalls criss-crossing the fields give a very good sense how enclosure of privately really changed the landscape after the demise of the medieval open-field system.

The Three Titans

Derbyshire YouTube thumbnailThe three churches of Ashbourne, Bakewell and Tideswell occurred to me as a good triumvirate of massive churches when making my second episode of my YouTube series: to Derbyshire’s parish churches as Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah are to Toho feature films (erm… – Ed). Each of them has great ambition. Ashbourne owes its massive chancel (one of the longest in the country) and cruciform layout to its status as a prebend of Lincoln Cathedral, but the “missing” arcade in the nave is testament to how they lost interest. In Bakewell’s case it was a royal possession that was going to get a double-tower westwerk, before Prince John gave it away to Lichfield Cathedral. While both of these continued to get filled with memorials from their parishioners, Tideswell was entirely a product of local ambition in a newly-made market town, and built mostly within a 40-year window. Anyway, watch my video for more on that.

A practical note: Ashbourne is not as short a distance from Bakewell as you might think. Bakewell is on the A6 from Buxton, you need to go west and down the A515 for the Buxton to Ashbourne road. The other churches make ideal stops so the journey doesn’t get too dreary.

Ashbourne, St Oswald


Extremely ambitious church, largely 13thc, with a huge spire, which nevertheless cannot be called commanding since it is kind of lost in its valley, and only occasionally glimpsed on the approach into town. Only downside is the parking situation, which is very restricted on streets and I have never noticed a church car park. The Sainsbury’s is free for two hours (as of 2018) with no purchase required. Park there, its 6 or 7 min walk round the corner and down Church Street: buy a bottle of wine or a toothbrush if you feel guilty when you get back. Market day is Thursday and Saturday: traffic can be bad around these days.


Gigantic chancel, dedicated in 1241 (see the tiny brass inscription in the S transept), followed by two transepts with E arcades (see how the S one has been pushed quite alarmingly by the central tower). Nave with only one arcade, tower showing a buttress where obviously at some point it would’ve been assumed the other one would go.

P2120459There is some medieval glass, quite easily missed, in the N transept. All the big windows are glazed but by rather generic efforts by the big firms. The Kempe W window for instance.

Loads of monuments. The N transept is essentially one big sleepover of late medieval and Tudor alabaster couples. Then there’s the famous monument in white marble by Thomas Banks to little girl Penelope Boothby. One could call it neo-classical but I suppose what makes it special is that it’s uncomfortably real, especially next to all these flamboyantly pious medieval nobs.P2120441

Bakewell, All SaintsP2120136.JPG

The views from the churchyard are magnificent. Like most active market towns parking not that easy. There are car parks down the hill, but these are intended for the shops, not the church, which is a bit away from the main centre. If you keep driving up past the church the road ceases being residents only and becomes two hours stay: the same on the west side of the churchyard. Market day (Monday) doesn’t alter the restriction here but the traffic in and out of the town can be terrible.


The church is an impressive scale, and initially very ambitious, but a lot of it is completely rebuilt in the mid-19thc, including the steeple and the entirety of the S transept (although apparently in authentic to what was there). Nave interior consequently, is forgettable. The chancel is trying to be flashy, but the twin set of Y-tracery windows on the E front is not the showpiece it wants to be. Amazing it survived being knocked out for a great big Perp window as happened to the no doubt quintuple lancets on the east end of Ashbourne.

The altarpiece, bizarrely called by Pevsner “wood-carving of c.1500, according to Dr Kamphausen probably North German” is by Kuchemann of Battersea, 1882. There’s lots of tombs in the huge S transept, but most notable is this extremely unusual late-14thc alabaster monument from the Foljambe family on the SW pier of the crossing tower, showing them as pious standing figures, a bit like Grand Wood’s American Gothic. Except they have pillows for some reason.


Tideswell, St John the BaptistP1740016.JPG

Calls itself “the Cathedral of the Peak” which is a bit silly really. It’s pretty leggy, but all of its architecture is firmly parochial. Very welcoming to tourists. In fact the amount of the “general public” who just wander in out of idle curiosity or for a few moments of peace and quiet is the most cathedral-like thing about it. There is no longer a market in Tideswell so it’s pretty sleepy. No parking restrictions on the roads, you can park outside but it’s often busy with ramblers’ cars.

Most of the building dates from the 14thc. The nave and transepts are all basically one campaign in the 132 and 30s. The chancel was built in the 1360s in the late-Decorated style in the stylistic orbit of Lichfield Cathedral’s presbytery. The chancel has a very rare altar-screen, which, with its giant niches, sedilia and piscina, tomb niches and other gubbins really do hint at the grandeur and sophistication of medieval ritual. Spiffing E window of Jesse Tree by Heaton, Butler and Bayne.


Other churches of interest

Norbury, St MaryP1890125.JPG

P1890106.JPGWorth a trip in itself. The chancel contains nearly all of its medieval heraldic glass, which dates it around 1300. Its architecture is also extremely well-connected, showing lots of motifs from the English “Court School” of the 1290s which produced top-whack stuff like the Eleanor Crosses. Look out for the little flowers that “tie” together the tracery.

Right next to the National Trust property of the manor house, which incidentally has the medieval hall masonry partly surviving which is visible from the churchyard. The turn off from the main road is easy to miss if you’re going the wrong direction.

Mayfield, St John the BaptistP1070505.JPG

Although north-east of Norbury, in Staffordshire. Certainly one for the pure medieval architecture fans than the general crawler. Whopping chancel, of similar type to Norbury (see also Checkley, towards Cheadle, which despite being in Jenkins is locked with no keyholder) and powerful Romanesque and Early Gothic arcades.

Bradbourne, All SaintsP1890165.JPG

Spectacular setting over a valley, perhaps the reason why such an early fine tower was built: to see from and be seen! The mid 12thc has its own fantastically detailed doorway (unusual) and also some interesting sculpted corbels. There’s not a huge amount to see inside, but it’s still a characterful church. Don’t miss the carved Saxon cross shaft as you come into the churchyard.

Fenny Bentley, St EdwardP1890158.JPG

The church is very restored, and the steeple is all brand-new Victorian. But it is nonetheless an essential detour for one unique monument. The two effigies are, in a playfully macabre manner, tied up in funeral shrouds. All of their offspring are shown on the sides in this manner too, like those little sausages of processed smoked cheese. The east end of the tomb identifies them as Thomas Beresford and his wife Agnes, but this may have been added later. Thomas died in 1473, but it’s impossible that the weird effigies could have been made much before the reign of Queen Elizabeth nearly a century later. If this was a retrospective monument set up to honour an ancestor, it would explain why their faces were hidden, while also acting as a memento mori for the current lord Beresford. A moving work of art: you can feel that sculptor really imagined the bulk of a knight in armour and his lady while carving these.

Alstonefield, St Peter

P1070413.JPGVery isolated church, feels like you’re in the North York Moors. Suitably ancient-feeling interior, with a very wonky end to the south aisle arcade which should amuse. A sheela-na-gig carving in the north aisle to raise a cheeky smile. Popular with walkers so some tea and coffee-making facilities (always nice if you’re parched).

Hartington, St GilesP1890273.JPG

Like much of this area, tremendous hill-side village. Extremely swanky Perp tower. Interesting how the church has been expanded – transepts with western aisles bolted onto the 13thc arcades, and then the S porch makes a single roofline with the S transept.

Youlgreave, All SaintsP1740177.JPG

Strange name. I’m never sure whether to pronounce the ‘E’ in the middle (the road signs say “Youlgrave”). The church has some excellent stone sculpture. Aside from the famous pilgrim figure embedded in the wall, there are the lively arcade capitals of around 1200, a most unusual font with a side basin, and the exceptionally-good alabaster memorial to Robert Glybert of 1492. He and his wife kneel with their issue in front of the Virgin. Christ has lost his head, otherwise it’s in incredible condition. Morris and Co. glass to Burne-Jones design in the Victorian chancel, well-executed.

Monyash, St John the BaptistP1740215.JPG

Pretty steeple, but the most interesting thing here is the chancel, which is, what we pedants call early Early English (so just after late Early Gothic). The sedilia were often dated as some as the earliest examples because of their round arches, and their dogtooth monument being mistaken on photographs as chevron. Dogtooth is really not a big thing till the 1230s so they’re not exceptional at all, but still nice examples of 13th-century sedilia.

Chelmorton, St John the Baptist

Like a lot of churches in the ups and downs of Derbyshire’s Peaks, characterfully on a slope. It’s nice how you can easily get above the church on the north side and look down. It has something quite exceptional inside – the base of a medieval stone rood screen.P1740239.JPG

Longstone, St Giles

P1740104.JPGNow this is not a church I’d usually expect to like so much. On a little road up and away from the village’s main road, the church looks like it’s been rebuilt to within an inch of its life, and nothing much convinces as being medieval. Yet clearly the effort was put into to stabilise the roofs, which are simple but beautiful from the inside.

P1740111You know when Pevsner calls a Victorian window “good” that actually he was really quite impressed, such a rare occurrence it is. Still, he’s right on the E window, which is likely by Heaton, Butler and Bayne. All of the windows are characterful work by good firms though, like this Hardman.

The last thing I have to note about this church is that the guestbook goes back to 1975, which is exceptionally old, and I suppose shows you how often people visit here. There’s still plenty of room left (it is quite thick, though), so go visit though. Then maybe they can get a new one without the awkward “where baptised” for us Virtuous Pagans…P1740121.JPG

END! Let me know in the comments where you might go further off the beaten track. I have plenty more Derbyshire to come: I’ve not forgotten Melbourne, Repton, Chesterfield or Dronfield!


Is Danny Dyer really directly descended from Royalty?

Spoiler: yes but you probably are just as much too

My computer runs like garbage so I really need to get a new one before I try to edit anything this long again. There’s plenty of text content I need to make live so yeah, look forward to that instead.

Since I put this together I actually ended up in The Bear pub in Oxford which features in this. Very nice cask.

Churchcrawling Trails: South Richmondshire

Richmondshire? Is this some secret county that only gets unlocked when you complete a high-score of church visits? No, it’s a district of North Yorkshire – the only district in England named by adding the “shire” suffix. Certainly it’s helpful to avoid confusion with the London borough, but that can’t be the main reason. It may be to do with its vast size (some hundreds in Yorkshire were “shire”, e.g. Hullshire, Howdenshire), which spreads into the largely unpopulated Yorkshire Dales. The area around its “capital” however, has some quality churches in attractive landscape which are often overlooked.

This tour features on three medieval churches which aptly demonstrate how parish churches borrowed and developed each others’ ideas. Then there are plenty of other ancient churches between Richmond (around Richmond itself will be a future Trail) and Ripon (which is a great base to explore these from). Also very close to the World Heritage site Fountains Abbey.

Patrick Brompton, Ainderby Steeple and Burneston

These three churches aren’t super-close to each other, particularly since the A1(M) slices through the middle. However, they’re a really fascinating chain of emulation, starting with Patrick Brompton – the name of the ancient Irish saint pointing to an early foundation. Try and visit them in the following order, but don’t worry if you can’t.

Patrick Brompton, St Patrick



Patrick Brompton church in 1820. Notice the old tower, and lower chancel gable. From McCall, Richmondshire Churches, 1910.

This is one of my favourite churches, despite it being quite heavily restored: it does make a difference when the church is restored well, though. It’s the oldest in every way, except for the tower, which is a Victorian rebuild of the original which collapsed.


Nave N arcade, last quarter of 12thc

The arcades are wonderful examples of Early Gothic: pointed arches but still with Anglo-Norman Romanesque ornament (see also Bedale). Notice that only the off-set smaller arch has a counterpart on the other side, presumably when it was built the church only had a north aisle and some sort of transeptal chapels.


Chancel, 1300s or 1310s.

The chancel however, is a tremendous overture of its genre that begins the story of exchange around this area. It has niches for the statues of the patron saint (certainly St Patrick) and Virgin Mary. The larger one on the south side was probably for St Patrick (going off evidence of surviving wall paintings in other churches, the Virgin was on the N). There’s an Easter Sepulchre alcove, and a sedilia and piscina group.


Piscina and sedilia group S of the high altar. Look out for the flies here, mind. Seems all of Richmondshire’s insects come to this corner to die.

The sedilia, essential French-inspired Rayonnant in their details, obviously set a bit of a benchmark (pun intended) around here. They have gables directly over the trefoil niches, the space within elegantly filled with a pointed trefoil.


“String-course swallower” on W wall of the chancel.

Not quite as artful but part of a long tradition is what the masons do with the string-course that wanders around the sedilia, tying all the furnishings up with a bow. Because the masons can’t just let it end, a little beastie gobbles it up just before the chancel arch.


Ainderby Steeple, St Helen


Steeple didn’t really receive the connotation of “tower with spire” until probably the 19thc, and this tower is all the church of St Helen ever had. The effort instead was put into its chancel, which owes a helluva lot to Patrick Brompton.


S wall of the chancel with piscina and sedilia group.


“It’s a living”

All the elements from that earlier building are here: the patron/Virgin niches, ornate sedilia group, wandering string course: even that pesky string-course swallower! All that’s missing is the Easter Sepulchre alcove, although this may have occupied the site now taken by the organ. The thing is, the actually quality of the sculpture is much, much lower. I mean, look at the sedilia.P1030178.JPG

They’ve got all the same elements as Patrick Brompton, but look how clumsy they are. The trefoils don’t elegantly link up the empty space inside the gables, they’re just plonked there. It’s almost as if someone carved them from memory: they certainly did not use a drawing to copy them!

Burneston, St Lambert


This chancel is the last in the chain of Chinese Whispers. Although all its windows are rigid Perpendicular-style, there’s something unmistakably Decorated about the whole thing. And indeed, inside, there’s deja vu all over again.



The chancel is probably earlier side of Perp around 1400, which makes its connections to the above two 14thc churches more understandable. It has the basic ensemble of ornate sedilia and piscina, patron/Virgin niches and wandering string course – although sadly the swallower’s nowhere to be seen. The sedilia have also ditched the trefoil completely: perhaps they were referencing Ainderby Steeple and thought it was best to leave it out because they’d made such a dog’s breakfast of it.

Other churches in the area

Make sure you visit some of the following around here too. They’re all mostly open every day.

Bedale, St Gregory


One of the more famous churches in the area, in a town with a large market street. Parking can be a bit of a squeeze around the church but I’ve always found somewhere (but there is no church car park). A church of quite large proportions. What’s out of all proportion is the E window of the S aisle. This is clearly made of tracery salvaged from a dissolved monastery, probably Jervaulx Abbey. It clearly is meant to be at least twice as tall, and probably a terminal window from a large wall (such as a presbytery E wall or transept, or if Easby Abbey is anything to go by, the refectory).


Nave N arcade

The N arcade is fantastic Early Gothic of around 1200, similar to Patrick Brompton, but a bit later and not as high a quality. Indeed Pevsner calls it “very curious, inventive certainly, if somewhat gross.” Which is a masterful bit of bathetic description which always makes me laugh. Indeed, god knows what the idea was with those big balls everywhere (notice how they go down the first column as well as on all the arches).


Effigy of Brian Fitzalan, d. 1306 (monument carved likely 20 years later)


Engraving of the Fitzalan tomb with mostly destroyed chest, E. Blore, 1825. British Museum.

Perhaps the most famous thing in the church is the effigy of Brian Fitzalan. Although Brian, Lord of the Manor of Bedale, died in 1306, the effigy can’t really be any earlier than the 1320s, for its sinous ogee canopy with ballflower ornament isn’t really paralleled at that date. He originally was on a tomb chest that celebrated his life, so it was likely a commemorative effigy erected by his family. The lady next to him is about as like to be his wife than the two knights opposite them to be husbands.

Hornby, St Mary

Not to be confused with Hornby in North Lancashire.


Church from SE, chancel mid-12thc, E wall by G.L. Pearson, 1877.


N nave arcade, last quarter of 12thc

A largely Romanesque building with a lot of clout, although rather other-enthusiastic restoration by J.L. Pearson in the 1870s. The E wall with three windows and a rose is him thinking of the sort of thing that might have been there. Even more overzealous is his Neo-Norman chancel arch, with pales in comparison to the ancient racousness of its late-12thc arcades.

There’s a side chapel full of a few rather sad old monuments and effigies, but the real surprise is the back of the screen, which retains its original decorative 15thc painting. It’s rare enough for something like this to randomly survive, but Yorkshire diocese had an episocopal command to remove screens in the 18thc, so barely any can be seen round here now. Anyway, it looks like William Morris designed it.P1500189.JPG

Kirby Malzeard, St Mary


Not the best church in the area, but just on the West Riding side of the river, so easy to overlook. Suffers a bit from over-restoration by Blomfield in the 1870s (that most over-eager of decades for the British) and again after a fire in 1908. There’s a Romanesque core here, but Blomfield’s strange choice of neo-Perp work is quite overbearing. The medieval sedilia are bizarre. They have ogee arches with dogtooth, which is like a mash-up of the greatest hits of the 13th and 14th centuries.

St Michael, Well


A small but atmospheric little church. The 14thc E wall looks suitably gnarled by the trails of time and specifically, the gable being inexpertly lowered at some point.

P1500150.JPGInside, there’s some rather random accoutrements, including a very nice Antwerp Mannerismy wooden altarpiece and the unusual sight of a Roman mosaic floor, discovered in the remains of a nearby villa. Funny how churches became dumping grounds for random bits of local history, but where else should it go? All the way to some museum that has loads of this sort of thing anyway?

West Tanfield, St Nicholas



The church’s exterior is totally upstaged by the Marmion Tower just next door, the gatehouse to the old manor. Its 15thc oriel window is a great photo opportunity for you to ask a friend to take of you for a souvenir of your visit to Richmondshire (it’s owned by English Heritage and open any reasonable hour for you to go up inside).

However the interior of this church is full of amazing things: primarily monuments, although the rather weak local sandstone is often in a parlous state. The most special monument is the double to John Marmion d.1387 and his wife. Not so much for the alabaster effigies, but the survival of the iron hearse over them, which can only really be paralleled at the Beauchamp Chapel at Warwick, and Westminster Abbey. This would have have been draped with fabrics often, surprisingly, obscuring the monument, but the candles on it would have contributed to the visibility on dark winters’ days.P1500084.JPG

No doubt connected with the munificence of someone represented by one of these effigies is a window made up of 15thc stained glass with many complete figures. Although there’s a lot of modern pieces (I don’t think the central head is original, for instance) it’s still quite a thing to behold.


Catterick, St Anne


Church from the SE. The oculus thing in the gable – probably the most visually-interesting thing – is Victorian. The angled buttresses on the corners are referred to in the 1412 contract as “franche botras” (French buttress).

I don’t like to be a text-obsessed art historian, but the church at Catterick is notable for being one of the very few medieval English parish churches to have a contract associated with its construction, dated 1412. It is between Katherine Burgh, wife of the recently-deceased Lord of the Manor, and the mason Richard de Cracall.

P1030222.JPGI do wonder if they needed to set out the shape of the church with Richard in writing because he was a bit crap, because the outstanding thing about the building is how incredibly boring it is. Hardly any mouldings, dull tracery, overall clunky feeling. Even the sedilia (called “prismatories” in the contract, a word that appears nowhere else in Middle English, so probably a scribal error) are flat and simply carved, unlike those of a similar date at Burneston.


The church is modified from the original contract: the aisles were extended into chancel chapels in the 16thc (but retaining the original E windows), and most annoyingly, the Victorians put a porthole clerestory on top of the arcades. Still, it’s definitely worth a visit for the unique history. The village also has a medieval bridge that also has a contract. Obviously the manor had good archiving practice.

More Richmondshire churches will follow in future guides, but that’s all for now.

Churchcrawling Trails: Occupied north Berkshire

One of the big pains in the arse about navigating England’s churches are the baffling counties. Since the big 1974 county boundary changes, the traditional historical counties often don’t match up with the road signs are where places actually are. This is perhaps most obvious in the district of the Vale of White Horse, which is now firmly administratively “Oxfordshire”, but is defiantly referred to locals as “Occupied North Berkshire”. (Essentially the boundary was originally defined by the River Thames which flows round the city of Oxford, but since urban expansion it was pretty daft for Berkshire county council to keep collecting the bins there)

Anyway, these churches are administratively all in Oxfordshire now, but all but one will be found in the Buildings of England volume for Berkshire. Many of them have the notable attribute of a cruciform plan, with often with a crossing tower and transepts, apparently here valued above the usual nave arcades. Subsequently, these transepts were colonised by memorials in the 14thc, and there’s much medieval sculpture to enjoy in this small area around Faringdon.

p1010291.jpgNote you might want to leave time at Faringdon to go up the hill to see the incredible Lord Berners’ Folly which looks over the town. Although it looks Georgian Gothick, it was built as late as 1935. Even if you can’t go up the tower (which, umm, you probably won’t, it’s only open for special occasions, and there’s no lift by the way) the view from the edge of the hill is wonderful (path from Stamford Road up to the hill is marked on map above)

Faringdon, All Saints


The church from the SE. Notice how the crossing tower is sadly truncated. It fell left on to the transept, which is basically all Victorian.

Faringdon is a mid-sized market town, but you can park right next to the church which is just a bit on its own past the Market Square. The church is rather Evangelical and full of music equipment, so it’s not left unlocked. It’s advertised as open on Saturdays and Bank Holidays, but the key is available Monday-Friday 9-4 and Saturday 9.30-1 at the Tourist Office just south of the church in the Market Square. It’s one of the most hassle-free key collections I’ve ever had, and of course the added bonus you get the church to yourself!


Interior of the enormous chancel with its giant lancets. The sedilia are mostly original, and were inserted about 50 years after the chancel was built.

berkshire - faringdon (henry dryden collection,

The chancel and sedilia in 1842. Watercolour by H. Dryden. Northamptonshire Central Library.

The obvious first barnstormer the church possesses is its gigantic 13thc chancel, no doubt at the behest of the canon of Salisbury Cathedral who had control over it by virtue of it being his prebendary. There are explicit instructions that the vicar (the prebend’s “vice” who actually does the work as a parish priest but gets of the parish’s tithes) had two chaplains to assist him saying the Liturgical Hours everyday “decently standing in suitable places” (“locis conventientibus decenter consistentibus“). The interest of the Cathedral in its prebendary’s liturgy is also shown by the rather gross sedilia that later were retrofitted into the chancel. They have the sort of over-the-top exuberance you’d expect from the early 14thc, but their motifs are early firmly Early English Gothic. So this is the 1270s or something REALLY pushing what ornament they have.


The Early Gothic crossing with its varied capitals. The quatrefoils with faces peeping out and trefoil-head niches are a bit odd, but they look similar to the Bampton sedilia, and seem to have been added later.

Like so many places round here, the rest of the interior is slightly spoiled by the steeple getting knocked over in the Civil War. Incidentally, it fell onto the S transept, and that’s why that’s got the mezzanine floor in it with the Bible Break-out Room and kitchen/loos. But there’s still the wonderful late 12thc arcades and crossing tower to enjoy. This is a church you can spend a good hour or so exploring.

Uffington, St Mary

(Not to be confused with Uffington in Lincolnshire, near Stamford)


The church from SE. Entry is through the unusual gabled porch on the S transept. Notice the odd window on the transept chapel. The unusual window is most likely 17thc repair of a later medieval window.


Nave looking SE into the crossing.

An absolute belle of a church, almost a perfectly preserved early 13thc aisleless-and-cruciform plan, if it wasn’t for the fact the spire fell off and disfigured the nave (the whole height of the nave has been compromised, most notably the W triple lancets are now cut off). However, the crossing space has a moving sweetness, one of the best achievements of the Early English style.


Chancel interior S.

The chancel ends with a sedilia/piscina group in perfect condition, but seemingly totally medieval. It also unusual, ends in a wooden rib-vaulted bay (entirely restored but predicated by the transverse arch just before it). The whole thing is thoughtfully composed in a way it’s rare for churches of this date (which is probably, uhh, 1220s?).


N transept chapels. It’s clearly trying to look like an arcade of a cathedral transept, but really, it’s totally unecessary as the chapels are essentially just a hollowed-out thick wall.

The transepts are justified by the presence of small chapels, extending as chunks of wall with stone roofs, just enough to fit an altar and a piscina in there. It’s really unthinkable that it wasn’t designed for multiple chaplains to say Masses here daily, like Faringdon’s ordinance. But there’s no easy answer as to why they spent money on this rather than the usual nave arcades you’d expect for a parish. Yes, the manor and advowson (right to appoint the next rector) belonged to the wealthy and powerful Abingdon Abbey, but, um, so did loads of places: that’s they were so wealthy and powerful. Some things are impossible to answer, and who knows, perhaps whatever ambitions the architecture represents were never actually fulfilled.

Anyway, since you enter through the porch on the S transept, don’t forget to go into the nave S porch and see the absolutely wonderful ironwork on the nave door.

Sparsholt, Holy Cross


View into the S transept from SW.

Sparsholt shows how parish-church transepts became more typical auxiliary spaces in the 14thc: as future-proofing the building for getting crowded out by the burgeoning trend in bourgeoise for monuments and chantries. The N transept at Sparsholt is nearly as large as the chancel. The surprise inside the transept (past the wooden screen, which is largely original) are the Decorated tomb niches, with their original effigies of exceptional quality, even more precious for them being carved out of oak.


Oak effigy of a lady, early 14thc.


Chancel piscina, sedilia, and tomb niche, second quarter 14thc.

The chancel is probably a 13thc lanceted structure a bit like Faringdon’s is, but one that was later souped up with a new reticulated E window and tracery put into the lancets. Even more niches here, and a stone effigy of a knight of a similar period to the wooden ones. Hierarchy of materials? If indeed they haven’t been shuffled about. Certainly the priest in the N chancel niche has been put in there on a modern base later. At most this would have originally had a brass in it so the Easter Sepulchre chest could be placed inside it.

Childrey, St Mary the Virgin

Yet another transeptal church with many medieval monuments, yet less architecturally sophisticated following what appears to be a Perp re-fenestrating and re-roofing. However, it does have the advantage of being high up for a nice view from the churchyard.


Interior looking E.


Alcove for the Easter Sepulchre on the N side of chancel, second half of 14thc.

The chancel has a late 14thc Easter Sepulchre receptacle, an early example of the late medieval trend for picking this position for your tomb to essentially serve as a table for the chest that took a crucifix and and host on Good Friday to symbolise Christ’s burial and Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Even though it means you couldn’t have a sculpted effigy because of it.


Lead font, second half of 12thc.

There’s lots of things not to be missed. The 12thc lead font, for one, which shows how they just reused the same mould over and over rather than carving all the bishops on it separately out of stone. There’s some glass high up in the N transept which is 15thc, beautiful essays in yellow-stain: notably parts of an Annunciation, an Ascension, and a BVM in glory.


Glass in the N transept, 15thc.

Stanford-in-the-Vale, St Denys


Interior to SE.


Not the best church in the area: if there’s any to skip, it’s this one, but it is nevertheless worth a visit and left open. The outstanding item is the bizarrely grand, canopied niche over the piscina. The reserved Sacrament (leftover consecrated Hosts from Masses) was usually kept suspended over the altar or on the N side of the altar, but this does not preclude it being kept here in this particular church. Very high quality first-quarter 14thc Oxfordshire Decorated. Did they have more that’s been lost? Or maybe this was all they could afford?

Buckland, St Mary the Virgin

(Not to be confused with Buckland in Gloucestershire)


Church from SE. Note how the chancel roof has been lowered from its original pitch. The windows may have been altered in the late Middle Ages before the 17thc gave them their current strange form.

The outstanding impression of this large cruciform church is that all the tracery has been taken out in the 17thc and replaced with transoms going straight into the heads of the windows, making it look like it’s got iron bars from a comedy old-West jail. It’s a typical, but not common (probably because the Victorians often got rid of it) post-medieval bodge-job repair, as well as the transepts at Uffington above, you can see examples of it at Egglestone Abbey (County Durham) and Stretton-on-le-Field (Leicestershire).

Inside the N transept you can see earlier lancets, but the Victorians instead invested their time on the S transept, covering it head to toe in glittering mosaics, executed by Powell’s of Whitefriars in the 1890s. Undeniably, this ends up being the showstopper in this building.


The S transept with its late Victorian mosiac work.

Bampton, St Mary the Virgin


Church from the W.

The only place on this list which is still in Oxfordshire. It’s on the edge of another group of interesting churches, but fits better for these for being yet another example of being cruciform, and the only one lucky enough to retain its spire. And what a spire! It has extremely small broaches on the corners, topped by little flyers with original statues. One, a St John the Baptist, fell off relatively recently and is kept in the nave.


Canopy in N transept, possibly originally over the shrine of St Beornwald.

Unusually, the church was a minor pilgrimage site, for local pre-Conquest Saint, Beornwald. The great niche in the N transept seems to have been related to his shrine. The shrine itself, long lost, maybe be related to the remodelling of Romanesque chancel and some of the earliest sedilia to feature gables. Although the left half of these are Victorian, the overall design is authentic, and bears comparison with the style of the W front of Salisbury Cathedral, so 1250s.


The mid 13thc sedilia in the chancel. Could their gables be similar to the lost shrine casket of St Beornwald?

However, perhaps the greatest treasure at Bampton is this stone reredos, probably 14thc, showing Christ and the Apostles. Pevsner calls it “rustic work of c.1400”. Yeah, it’s hardly Claus Sluter or the Pisani, but he’s kind of underselling it. It’s a remarkable survival, and the fragments of colour very evocative of how it originally looked. Yeah, they obviously messed up on John’s chin, but that gives it all the more charm.


Reredos, S aisle. Probably second half of the 14thc.

In the same day as most of these churches I went out to Little Faringdon, which is a deep cut for people who love small-but-perfectly-formed Early Gothic arcades. But it’s quite a bit out of the way, so I didn’t include it in this trail. Where might you venture next? Let people know in the comments!



Great Mistakes at Lincoln Cathedral

It’s finally here! The next amazing building for me to nitpick about!

Let’s hope I didn’t go too George Lucas Episode One on the special effects this time. But believe me, I spent more time thinking about how the transept might link up with the Romanesque nave than recording that Osmonds song at the end. Or, um, maybe that’s not too hard to believe.

A practical guide to the Cathedrals of England

Whereas in France, their great cathedrals receive government funding, in England, it can be a shock to tourists that many of our cathedrals charge an entry fee. This can range from £6 to a whopping £22.

The funding situation for our historic buildings notwithstanding, of course visitors should donate to these great buildings to keep them alive if it is within their means. As well as maintaining these huge buildings, cathedrals also maintain choral and musical traditions, and professional choirs and organists can’t work for free!

But on the other hand, required entry fees can put people off visiting, especially if they are backpackers making a quick stopover, or families who aren’t going to spend more than a few minutes looking around. Sometimes visitors wandering in can be put off by the hassle of a cashier’s gaze if they just want a very quick nosy about. So here’s a guide on what to expect when visiting cathedrals in England.

The Medieval Diocesan Cathedrals

All of these are definitely worth a visit if you’re in their city. English medieval dioceses were relatively large, and their cathedrals always on an impressive scale. Therefore I’ve kept my descriptions fairly short because they’re all worthy of many paragraphs to details their architecture and fittings. Of the 19 original medieval cathedrals, 7 of them have mandatory admissions fees as of 2018.

Carlisle (Cumbria)


No charge, unrestricted entry.

Photo permit £2 (no tripods caveat)

The smallest medieval cathedral in England since most of its nave was demolished in the mid 17thc. The presbytery is uniquely light and perfectly proportioned though.

Durham (County Durham)


No charge, but very strict on photography for some reason. If you can prove academic status a permit is £15/£7.50 for students. It’s under the pretense of “preserving the peace” but if you don’t see one custodian shouting at a tourist with a camera, you’ve visited on a very quiet day. In fact the whole building feels on a knife-edge because of it, so a bit of an own-goal really, but they continue to be pretty much alone enforcing this rule outside London. They do have photography evenings occasionally, unlike Westminster Abbey (see below)

World-famous for its rich Romanesque nave, but the 13thc Nine Altars east end is spectacular also.

York Minster (The city of York)


£11/£9 concessions on the door. Automatically valid for a year. Also includes access to the crypt museum which makes it a great value day out.

One of the best collections of medieval glass in the world. Also the biggest medieval cathedral in England by volume. Nave is enormously wide.

Lichfield (Staffordshire)


Welcome desk but no charge.

Very restored after Civil War ransacking but architecturally extremely impressive. Nave incredibly richly adorned with sculptural embellishment.

Coventry (Warwickshire)


Base of the north-west tower of the nave of St Mary’s Priory – the first of three buildings called Coventry Cathedral

Access to excavated nave of St Mary’s Priory, the only English cathedral to be totally demolished, open any reasonable hours. Visitor centre for St Mary’s Priory also free but only open Wed-Sat. See below for post-1918 cathedral (bombed out 1940) and the Basil Spence replacement.

Lincoln (Lincolshire)


£8/£6.40 concessions. Free unrestricted entry outside when the cash desk is open (9.30-4.30 Mon-Sat) The big drawback here is the ticket is valid for a year, but only for one further visit. Annual passes are £24.

A contender for best English cathedral, but not really “on the way to anywhere” so not much tourist footfall, sadly. Also the town is a bit grim when you get down the hill.

Hereford (Herefordshire)


No charge, unrestricted entry. Charge to see the chained library/Mappa Mundi: £6/£5.

Its nave very badly damaged when the west tower fell down in the 18thc, but still a fine place, better than the sum of its parts.

Worcester (Worcestershire)


No charge, unrestricted entry.

Quite restrained, architecturally, but soaring vaults and lots of interesting sculpture.

Ely (Cambridgeshire)


£9/£6 concessions. Unrestricted access outside 9-5 Mon to Sat. Slightly more permissive than most about free entry if you really cannot afford in those hours.

If you ask, they will give you a one-year pass.

Luscious 14thc lady chapel, electrifying east end, world-famous octagon crossing.

Norwich (Norfolk)


No charge, but in visiting hours (9.30-4.30ish) they will make you walk past the welcome desk and ask for a suggested donation.

Most complete Romanesque cathedral in England, second-tallest steeple, late medieval vaulting throughout with hundreds of finely-carved bosses.

London (St Paul’s)

£18/£16 concessions on the door. Access to nave only after cash desk closes. Also access to crypt (café) unrestricted.

If you Gift Aid your admission, you can ask for a one-year pass, which makes it much more reasonable.

No photography. But they do have photography evenings occasionally.

Of course, this is all Wren now, with William Blake Richmond’s mosaics on the choir domes. You can see the outline of the medieval chapter house on the south side. There’s absolutely nothing medieval to see inside. The oldest thing on display is the monument to John Donne (although there are bits of medieval stonework kept in the lapidarium in the galleries, which are not open to the public).

Canterbury (Kent)


£12.50/10.50 concessions. In fact, the only cathedral you need to pay to see the exterior, as the gatehouse is the cash desk. Free entry for local students. Ask for your ticket to be upgraded to an annual pass for free (or Gift Aid).

Extremely important architecturally, and the vivid history of St Thomas Becket, its destructive fire, and Becket’s internationally important shrine.

Rochester (Kent)


No charge, unrestricted entry.

Unusual Romanesque nave with false tribune (no vaults to the aisles) and the uniquely unaisled late 12thc presbytery.

Chichester (Sussex)


No charge, unrestricted entry.

Often forgotten, a little smaller than some of the giants, but much to admire, especially the post-Canterbury retrochoir. Slightly spoilt by the steeple collapsing in the 19thc, but meticulous replacement of what was destroyed by G.G. Scott.

Salisbury (Wiltshire)


No charge, but in visiting hours you will go past a cash desk who will ask you for a recommended entry fee.

The most consistently built of the English cathedrals, constructed on a virgin site in the 13thc, but still quintessentially odd.

Winchester (Hampshire)


£8.50/£6.50 concessions, automatically valid for year.

Extremely long and packed with stuff. The transepts very early Norman work and extremely brutal in their scale. However I don’t think I’ve ever been when big chunks of the building aren’t frustratingly covered in scaffolding.

Wells (Somerset)


No charge, but you may be ushered past a cash desk that asks you for suggested donation. Sorry, last time I was here was like 2011 and I was in there at 6 am because that’s how I rolled.

Often passed over by tourists (it’s essentially in a small market town), but as important as Canterbury as far as the architecture goes.

Bath (Somerset)


No charge, but you will go past a entry desk with a suggested donation during normal hours.

Not usually considered a medieval cathedral, since it is now essentially a grand but small late-medieval abbey church. The original Romanesque cathedral was so overshadowed by Wells, it became so dilapidated it was all but totally demolished and replaced by the current Tudor-Gothic building in the early 16thc.

As of 2018/19 undergoing serious work restoring the foundations under the floors in its Footprint project. Visitor experience will be transformed after this, as currently the admittedly fine G.G. Scott pews do restrict the movement of the hordes of Bath tourists and make it feel uncomfortably cramped a lot of the time.

Exeter (Devon)


£7.50/£5 concessions. Gift Aid for annual pass. Free for residents. Unrestricted access early morning/evening.

Unique for its 14thc high vault running between two mighty Romanesque transept towers. Towering early 14thc carpentry in the Bishop’s Throne canopy which practically touches the vault.

The “Henry VIII” Cathedrals

At the Dissolution of the Monasteries, six abbey churches were chosen to be the cathedrals of new dioceses. They are essentially the same architectural quality as the medieval diocesan cathedrals.

Chester (Formerly Benedictine Abbey of St Werbergh), Cheshire


£6 entrance fee introduced 2004 abolished in 2013. Cash desks still there, and you need to get a ticket from them even if you choose to pay nothing.

Very restored, like all the red sandstone cathedrals (Lichfield, Hereford), but still impressive. Definitely the least well-known of the Henry VIII cathedrals and frequently forgotten.

Gloucester (Formerly Benedictine Abbey of St Peter), Gloucestershire


No charge, unrestricted entry. Entry to crypt by tour only.

Interior of the presbytery – a Romanesque apse retrofitted with mid-14thc panel tracery – is brittle, complex, and overwhelming. Gigantic medieval east window with its original glass. One of the very best medieval churches.

Bristol (Formerly Augustinian Abbey), City of Bristol


No charge, unrestricted entry.

Only the east end is medieval, but it has a unique vaulting system, and lots of other weird architectural quirks. Perhaps interesting rather than beautiful a lot of the time.

Oxford (Formerly Augustinian Priory of St Frideswide), Oxfordshire


Currently £8/£7 concessions, rising to £10/£9 in July 2019. Includes visits to the rest of the Christ Church college grounds (but not the picture gallery, which is an extra £4/£2).

Free entry for parishioners of Oxford diocese on completing a form.

Often referred to as Christ Church cathedral, which is very confusing for Kiwis. Unusual place for being inside a university college complex (Cardinal Wolsey had dissolved it in 1520 with a view to turning it into a secular college like Bishop Alcock had done with Jesus College, Cambridge), but essentially it is a late Romanesque priory church with lots of later fancy bolt-ons. The cathedral was going to be the much bigger Osney Abbey outside of Oxford, but then there was a change of mind and the executed Wolsey’s college was picked instead, and Osney was almost entirely demolished.

Peterborough (Formerly Benedictine Abbey of St Peter), Huntingdonshire


No charge, unrestricted entry. Photography permit £3.

Nearly as well preserved as Norwich for muscular Romanesque, except the formerly cavernous ambulatory was replaced with the bright and fan-vaulted New Building in the early 16thc.

Westminster Abbey, London

Ooh boy. Here we go.


£22/£17 concessions on the door. £5 extra for the new Gallery museum.
Free entry for residents of the City of Westminster (like they need it!)
If you really do want to visit multiple times in a year (because you’re researching the building or teaching on it) then you can get an annual pass for £50 (£40 direct debit). It used to be photo ID but now it just has your name on it. Other joint and guest memberships available. Also you get access to occasional private evening visits.

This is just about the only church here (except perhaps St Paul’s) that you can not visit for free on a Sunday and wander around after the service. If you go to a service (which to be fair, nearly always will have high-quality music) you will be watched like a hawk afterwards and ushered out promptly.

Westminster was only briefly a cathedral between 1540-50, but it remains so central to the nation it essentially is one. It often comes as a shock to people that is not like Notre Dame de Paris where you can just pop in. Not only is the entrance fee the highest of any church in the country, but there are often long queues in the rain and fumes of Westminster Square to endure for an hour or two. Bring a bin-bag to put on. It’s appropriate because you will feel like a piece of rubbish by the time you’ve been fleeced at the cash desk.

The big thing about the Abbey is that you can NEVER get permission to take photographs. Even for personal research. If you really needed a photo of something for a book, and they don’t have an image of it in their library, it would have to go through the Dean and Chapter. They’re extremely strict to the point of pettiness about it.

One top tip if you don’t have much time is that because they used to be owned by English Heritage, an agreement still exists that members can get in the chapter house, cloisters and pyx chamber for free. Go in the gate to the school by the west front and ask to see the cloisters and chapter house (this used to work even if you weren’t an EH member but sadly since the Abbey acquired the trust of the cloister complex back in 2016, they closed this loophole).

The York Diocese medieval “Pro-Cathedrals”

These three were essentially built on a great-church scale in the Middle Ages as pro-cathedrals to the massive diocese of York and are medieval cathedrals for all intents and purposes (Southwell and Ripon were made true dioceses in the 19thc, Beverley is still only a parish church).

Southwell Minster (Nottinghamshire)


Free, unrestricted entry. Photo permits are £5 which is a bit steep if you just want a few snaps.

Well-preserved Romanesque nave and crossing, stunning early 13th east end, but it’s the chapter house, with the famous foliage carvings on the capitals, that is justly famous here.

Ripon Minster (Yorkshire, West Riding)


Free, unrestricted entry. Photo permit £4.

Ripon has the earliest Gothic fabric of any cathedral, but most of it fell down, but that’s all part of the fun, innit? Although it is still called a cathedral, it no longer has its own proper bishop: along with Wakefield and Bradford it being amalgamated in the Diocese of Leeds in 2014.

Beverley Minster (Yorkshire, East Riding)


Free, unrestricted entry. Volunteers walk around politely selling photo permits for £3 – a reasonable price. They’re quite iconic stickers now. Essential souvenir to own one.

The only one on this list that is still nothing more than a parish church (with of course, support and advice from the Greater Churches Group on funding and maintenance). Therefore it is run by a parochial church council rather than a proper dean and chapter. I got told off a couple of years ago by some lady who reckoned they had copyright on the interior of the building and would sue me if I published any pictures of it. I was assured later this is not official line. But yeah. Be careful of whoever she was.

Unusually consistent Early English interior, a post-Lincoln design that is one of the most thoughtful elevations in English architecture. 14thc nave even continues the design quite pedantically. The Percy Tomb is one of the finest sculptural ensembles surviving in England.

Abbey/priory churches made parochial at Reformation that became diocesan in the 19thc

Southwark (formerly Augustinian Priory of St Mary Overie), London


Unrestricted access, photo permits only £1. Group visits can be rather expensive though (particularly when you’re trying to teach a class and have a limited budget).

The nave was demolished in the mid-19thc and crudely replaced: the current nave is a late 19thc replacement that copies the 13thc choir, which is quite a surprising survival, right next to the Shard. The retrochoir is a very nice space away from the hustle of Borough Market. A good alternative to Westminster Abbey if you’re in London and want some medieval architecture.

St Albans (Formerly Benedictine Abbey of St Alban), Hertfordshire


Free, unrestricted entry.

Spoilt by bully-boy Lord Grimthorpe’s ham-fisted and naff restorations in the mid 19thc, but extremely long and also in some places, very early Romanesque using looted Roman building material.

Medieval parish churches which became diocesan largely in their original form

St Martin, Leicester (Leicestershire)


Free, unrestricted entry.

Originally the parish church of St Martin, not even the most interesting church in Leicester (see Mary de Castro or St Nicholas for that title), as the crossing steeple was entirely rebuilt from the ground up by Raphael Brandon in the 19thc. Of course most people go here to gawk at Richard III’s cheese-slicer tomb now. But it’s still free at least.

St Nicholas, Newcastle (Northumberland)


Free, unrestricted entry.

The steeple with its stone crown is justly famous, but despite its size, the late-14thc interior is incredibly dull, even for someone like me who loves the ordinary. The Victorian high altar enclosure is the most impressive bit. If you don’t go in here while you’re in Newcastle, you really aren’t missing much.

Former collegiate church of Our Lady, St George and St Denys, Manchester, South Lancashire


Free, unrestricted entry. Photo permits £1.

Manchester suffers because it doesn’t feel like a cathedral at all. But it is an exceptionally fine collegiate church, with some of the finest choir stalls in the country. If it was still just a parish church it’d be top of many more lists.

Medieval parish churches which became diocesan and architecturally upgraded

These are average-sized medieval churches (except Blackburn, which has no medieval fabric left, and instead has an early 19thc nave) that were given massive upgrades to their east ends in the interwar and postwar periods to make them more “cathedral-like”. None of them charge.

Bury St Edmunds (“St Edmundsbury Cathedral”), Suffolk


Free, unrestricted entry.

The nave is quite an important work by John Wastell, mason of King’s College Cambridge. The Victorian chancel was replaced by Stephen Dykes Bower who is not one of my favourite people and frankly looks a bit plastic, childish and underwhelming.

Blackburn (North Lancashire)


Free, unrestricted entry.

There was a medieval church here, but it was replaced in 1826 by a surprisingly “correct” Gothic nave designed by John Palmer. It became a cathedral in 1926 and the rather clunkily Gothic transepts built in the 1930s. The whole plan was scaled back after the war, and a centrally-planned approach taken, accentuated by John Hayward’s underrated furnishings.

Bradford (Yorkshire, West Riding)


Free, unrestricted entry.

A rather ordinary chunky late medieval nave with proud Perpy tower you might expect in any northern market town. The off-the-peg cathedrally 1950s east end by Edward Maufe is perfunctory but the Morris and Co. glass is good.

Chelmsford (Essex)

Free, unrestricted entry.

Cathedral from 1913. Essentially late medieval but had much restored beforehand. The least ambitious of the upgrades. It’s very clean-looking now. Which is more than you can say about most of Chelmsford (oooOoh!).

Portsmouth (Hampshire)


Free, unrestricted entry.

The east end of the church is a really important example of early 13thc architecture, and quite beautiful. Its crossing tower collapsed in the Civil War, and hence the choir is late 17thc. In 1927 it was made a cathedral, and from 1935 all the way unto 1991, the new west block, in a Neo-Byzantine style, was built. It’s actually pretty nice.

Sheffield (Yorkshire, West Riding)


Free, unrestricted entry.

Became a cathedral in 1919. The most ambitious of the upgrades. Architect Charles Nicholson tried to pull off what Siena tried to do with their cathedral in the 14thc, reorientating the building with a new nave and presbytery, turning the crossing spire, chancel, and its aisles into a transept and building a matching transept on the other side. Which is insane, frankly. The 14thc nave he would have demolished is rather interesting. So what you have is a big medieval church with a weird modern west end and the intended new chancel stuck on the north side, scaled back and looking rather lost.

Wakefield (Yorkshire, West Riding)


Free, unrestricted entry.

Made a cathedral in 1888. Medieval nave and aisled chancel, but east wall pulled down and new east end designed by John Loughborough Pearson undeniably impressive stone vaults. The west steeple, although much restored, is one of the tallest in the country and can be seen from miles around.

Post medieval parish churches which became diocesan


Free, unrestricted entry.

Built 1710-25 by Thomas Archer in a Baroque style. Became a cathedral in 1905. If it didn’t have the Morris and Co windows designed by Edward Burne-Jones, it wouldn’t be worth a look, but they are some of the finest 19thc glass in the world and make the building a must visit.

Derby (Derbyshire)


Free, unrestricted entry.

A 16thc tower, but the body was rebuilt by James Gibbs in 1725. The wrought-iron chancel screen is quite unusual. Became a cathedral in 1927, and extended a bit eastwards 1967-72. I mean worth a visit if you’re in Derby, I guess. Because you’re in Derby. What else are you going to do?

The entirely modern cathedrals



The bombed-out church of St Michael, made a cathedral in 1918, is free to explore in reasonable hours because it’s just the outer walls, essentially. The Basil Spence building next to it had a £6 entry free introduced in 2010, but it was abolished in 2018.

It’s a strange building, to be honest, but the Sutherland Tapestry – reportedly the largest in the world – is quite something.

Guildford (Surrey)

Free, unrestricted entry.

Constructed 1936-61 to the design of Edward Maufe. It has its admirers, but I think most would agree: worth seeing, but hardly worth going to see.

Liverpool (South Lancashire)


No charge, but welcome desk that may ask for donations.

Constructed 1904-1978 largely to the design of Giles Gilbert Scott. By volume, a contender for the largest cathedral in the world. It depends how you calculate it, but the sheer space under the central tower and transepts is phenomenal.

Truro (Cornwall)

Free, unrestricted entry.

Constructed 1880-1910 to the designs of John Loughborough Pearson. Essentially it’s a very big Victorian Neo-Gothic church that owes more to French architecture than than anything English. Incorporates a small part of Truro’s medieval parish church. Probably worth seeing if you’re this far down Cornwall (it’s a long way from anywhere!)


There are of course Roman Catholic cathedrals too, and while they vary tremendously in architectural quality, at least you can be sure they won’t be taking money off you to have a look around. Basically no parish church charges for entry (exceptions in London of course: Temple Church and St Bartholomew the Great, Smithfield charge a mandatory few pounds) even the great former abbeys such as Selby. English Heritage sites are another matter, and perhaps for a future post.

Episode 3: Monasticism 101 – Morecambe Bay

It’s here! After being put on the back burner while I went to Norwich! Bit longer than usual because there are four sites I wanted to compare. I’m quite pleased with how the Furness reconstruction effects came out.

In this episode around Morecambe Bay, I visit the (probably) Anglo-Saxon monastic cell at Heysham, the great Cistercian Abbey of Furness, the middle-rank Augustinian priory at Cartmel and the almost totally demolished Cockersand Abbey; explaining the daily life of a monk via the universal medium of 8-bit graphics! (remember the ’80s!?! etc.)

Obviously all shot on the same day in the order presented because I have the SAME SHIRT ON!!!

Music is Mass for Four Voices by William Byrd, performed by Ensemble Morales, licenced under CC 3.0.
I feel I obliged to say no English medieval monastery could ever have sung Byrd (since he was almost certainly born just after the Dissolution), but then they’d never have heard Vaughan Williams either, and nobody complained when I used that.