Virginia Barton

Church by Oxfordshire church for the glovebox

 

Catholic Herald, 25 August 1989

 

Review: A Guide To The Churches Of Oxfordshire by Jennifer Sherwood (Robert Dugdale, £6.95)

 

There must be well over 500 entries  in this guide to the churches of Oxfordshire. It includes every Anglican and Catholic church in the county, but if you need to find the Christadelphian Ecclesia you will have to look elsewhere.

Because of the large number, the entries tend to be brief, almost bald. Jennifer Sherwood aimed “to summarise the history and indicate details of interest, rather than provide a stone by stone survey of every church.”  This she does with admirable brevity, but the terse prose is quite sufficient to titillate the would-be-tourist until he can lay hands on the guides available in the church porch. (These pamphlets are usually excellent supplements to the “overview” of a guide such as the one under review. Most of our homes boast a stack of these assorted booklets, collected over the years, which one never remembers to pack in the picnic basket.)

A Guide to the Churches of Oxfordshire is convenient to carry, neither too large nor too heavy, and the print is good enough to read without groping for specs. It is illustrated by the irresistible drawings and photographs of John Piper and the distinctive cover of Adderbury Church (below) is temptation enough to buy. A twelve page illustrated glossary is an added bonus.

 

St_Mary's_Church,_Adderbury_-_geograph_org_uk_-_1138963

 

The book is published for the Oxfordshire Historic Churches Trust and the cost of publication was shared by two charitable trusts and two anonymous donors. Proceeds from sales go towards the urgent needs of the churches.

Soaring maintenance costs and dwindling congregations have landed virtually every village with a fund-raising problem; and the book reminds us of our stunning heritage and awesome responsibility.

The author points out that the country house is now well-established as a recipient of funds for conservation and repair. She suggests there is an urgent need for a proper appreciation of our religious buildings, at least as interesting as the focus of village life as the Big House.

I echo that sentiment and thoroughly recommend this guide for glove-box or bookshelf. Such books are like magic keys that open up hidden pleasures and treasures every time the old church door creaks open before one’s curious gaze.

One tiny carp. The “further reading” list omitted  E.B. Ford’s Church Treasures in the Oxford District.

 

 

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