Make your way through Coventry’s postwar shopping precincts and suddenly you catch sight of the steeple of St Michael’s, soaring, as Ruskin put it, halfway to the sky, now standing defiantly above the nave and chancel bombed in 1940. Go on a church crawl in Somerset west of Yeovil and you will see steeples with lavishly decorated bell lights, crowns and battlements. Church towers such as these are among the great glories of English architecture. Not just cathedrals but also the parish churches of seemingly humble villages boast astonishingly lofty and imposing towers. They richly deserve study and in this huge and weighty book Julian Flannery, an architect, offers the fruits of his explorations.
The introduction, containing more than a dozen pages of maps and line drawings, leads on to architectural descriptions, arranged chronologically, of Flannery’s fifty chosen towers, illustrated with black-and-white photographs (it’s a pity that none is in colour and also that they are often taken from awkward angles). The book is