English Medieval Church Towers

Page 14 of English Medieval Church Towers

Among our many new books for the second half of 2018, one of the highlights is English Medieval Church Towers. David Ryan has visited and painted 500 medieval churches of the Northern Province of England to record their towers in watercolour, preserving for posterity a delightful record of one of the greatest groupings of England’s historic buildings.

Originally his plan was to photograph the single towers of local medieval parish churches, but he soon found that obstacles both natural and man-made (trees, bushes, gates, power lines, etc.) blocked the views and made it impossible to capture a complete image. A gifted architect of the pre-computer age, Mr Ryan had a back-up plan: his drawing ability and his watercolours.

Page 15 of English Medieval Church Towers

Painting therefore became the best way to record each tower in full and in requisite architectural detail. Later, after realising that he had painted the towers of several dioceses, he made the conscious decision to carry on until he had found and painted every church that he could find and access in the ecclesiastical province of York, a vast region that spreads from Nottingham and Southwell to the northern borders.

The result is a delightful paperback original filled with 500 colour illustrations, each with an architectural description and precise location details. Thus these venerable, often beautiful churches receive at last some of the attention they so often miss out on, nudged from the spotlight by the nation’s better-known cathedrals. Of these, only one makes it to David’s book: Bradford Cathedral, the reason being that it is the only cathedral with a single tower, because it started its life as a more humble parish church. All the remaining medieval cathedrals have multiple towers or spires, so here at least they don’t make the cut.

Mr Ryan warmly recommends ‘tower hunting’, for anyone making the effort will soon find themselves visiting some of England’s finest villages and travelling through countryside as beautiful as any in the world.

To learn more, look out for our interview with David in the September issue of our free eNewsletter, the Medieval Herald. If you are not already a subscriber please sign-up here.

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