Country Church Monuments by C B Newham - review by Nigel Andrew

Nigel Andrew

Graven in Stone

Country Church Monuments

By

Particular Books 728pp £40
 

This hefty book – two inches thick and weighing something over two kilograms – fills a big gap. Indeed, it fills it handsomely, authoritatively and on a grander scale than I would have thought possible in today’s publishing climate. Its subject is one of this country’s greatest but least appreciated and most widely dispersed treasures: the fine monumental sculptures that have survived in our parish churches, often in remote and out-of-the-way locations where none but the dedicated church crawler is likely to come across them. Until now, this treasure has, for the most part, been rather sketchily documented, in Pevsner’s Buildings of England series and in a few historical and thematic surveys, notably Katharine Esdaile’s pioneering English Church Monuments 1510 to 1840 and Brian Kemp’s more recent English Church Monuments, none of which focuses specifically on the monuments in our country churches. Now we have this compendious, lavishly illustrated book devoted entirely to just those monuments.

C B Newham is just the man to have written this book. He has a prodigious wealth of knowledge about English and Welsh parish churches, is director of the Parish Church Photographic Survey and has an archive of more than half a million photographs to draw on, the product of visits to nearly nine thousand churches. More than 365 of these photographs – all full-page and in full colour – are included in this volume. They show monuments in 365 churches, all of them in rural parishes or small towns (classified as those under ten thousand in population) outside the orbit of the M25. The choice is, Newham candidly acknowledges, ‘completely subjective’, though many of the monuments – for example, the Montagu memorials at Warkton, Joseph Nollekens’s monument to Maria Howard at Wetheral and Nicholas Stone’s masterpiece, a monument to Elizabeth, Lady Carey, at Stowe-Nine-Churches – would be on anyone’s list. For myself, I’d also have included the haunting monument to Sir Adrian Scrope at South Cockerington, Epiphanius Evesham’s monument to Sir Thomas Hawkins at Boughton-under-Blean and the moving memorial to the Bray children at Great Barrington. But then, what would I have dropped?

Newham writes fluently, so his book is as enjoyable to read as it is to handle and look at. It begins with an introduction that includes a short history of the development of church monuments from medieval times to the modern era. On the current wave of iconoclasm

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