Secret Churches,

By Richard Surman

Printed: 2008

Publisher: Collins. London

Dimensions 17 × 23 × 3 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 17 x 23 x 3

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Item information


In the original dustsheet. Navy board binding with silver title on the spine.

  • F.B.A. provides an in-depth photographic presentation of this item to stimulate your feeling and touch. More traditional book descriptions are immediately available.

A glimpse at some of Britain and Ireland’s most intriguing churches, each harbouring architectural, historical or artistic secrets. Beautifully presented, Richard Surman’s tour includes photographs of every church and an illustrated glossary. Can be used as a gift, reference or field guide.The churches of Britain and Ireland are a unique showcase of craftsmanship and offer an intriguing glimpse into Christianity down the centuries. Some are celebrated landmarks, others are well-hidden, but every church harbours its own stories and secrets. The secrets of these churches span the centuries – from the sixth century Irish monastery of Clonmacnoise in Offaly, to the 1960s Jean Cocteau murals at London’s Notre Dame de France. Other churches form part of an historic landscape, such as the remote Romney Marsh churches or St Cwyfan’s, perched on its rocky islet on the coast of Anglesey. Some churches give up their secrets on first acquaintance, others keep their secrets close, like the fifteenth century carvings of Rosslyn Chapel. All have their stories to tell, from the remote hut-like chapel on Orkney decorated with elaborate frescos by Italian POWs, to the seaside church in Whitby whose roof was made by local shipwrights. Featuring over 250 churches from around the British Isles, with colour photographs of every church as well as maps showing their location and an illustrated glossary, Secret Churches is an invaluable reference guide and a captivating read.


  • My curiosity was raised when seeing “Secret Churches” but on opening the book I think the word “secret” is not quite right, the churches reviewed in this book appear to be in use i.e. not de consecrated and certainly those shown in the southern/ southeast areas appear to be well maintained and must be known to the inhabitants of the villages listed. Nevertheless I found the book informative and easy to read. The photographs are clear and as someone with an interest in church history and architecture, it is a book that will be referred to regularly.

  • This is a potpourri of the author’s favourite “secret” churches, which are delightfully ill-defined, but all have a certain something – charm, historical connection, atmosphere – which qualifies them for inclusion in this exceptionally well presented book. Each church (or chapel – especially welcome is the inclusion of churches outside the established religion) has a photograph of the outside or interior and brief but informative text to complete the picture. I’ve spent many a year vainly trying to perfect the art of church photography – I’m pleased to see that the author’s efforts are splendid and usually the exterior shots make the profusion of surrounding shrubbery often encountered a virtue by establishing the setting beautifully. Most interesting is to check the mood changing tone as the location heads north and west – many northern and Scottish churches have a dour almost military magnificence, and beautiful ruined monasteries over in Ireland, endlessly raided by seaborne invaders over the years. By the author’s own admission, the spread of “secret churches” is uneven and reflects his own interests and experiences, thus the inclusion of many Herefordshire churches which he knew as a boy. My own patch in the East Midlands is virtually absent – I could name a dozen or more churches within twenty miles of where I am sitting well suitable for inclusion – but I’ll forgive Mr Surman his partiality as the book is a splendid and informative read.

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