In 1722, Daniel Defoe set off on his Tour Through the Eastern Counties of England. In 1724, he began A Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain. William Cobbett started his Rural Rides on 30 October 1821. A century later, H.V. Morton went by car and wrote In Search of England. A few years later, J. B. Priestley made his English Journey. In the 1930's John Betjeman initiated the Shell Guides and in the 1960s made his programmes on country towns, mainly in the South West, which are now available on video. Beryl Bainbridge followed in Priestley's footsteps with her English Journey: or the Road to Milton Keynes, in 1984, which was made into a series of eight television programmes. Itineraries of travel writers
In the 1930s, Arthur Mee edited a series of 41 county volumes in 'The King's England' series. It covered 10,000 towns and villages and gives an accessible account of the principal buildings. The books do not include references to original sources but still provide ready access to the principal historical events associated with each location. After the war, Nikolaus Pevsner produced books for each county in the series 'Buildings of England'. They are rich in architectural detail but do not attempt to cover historical events. New revised editions are in production.
Now, for the 21st century, I set out, digital camera in hand, in search of places of historic interest in England. Here you will not find many world heritage sites, which are much photographed already, but the small jewels scattered in profusion around the country. If there is a preponderance of old churches among my selections it is in part for practical reasons. Firstly, in any village, the church is likely to be the oldest building. Secondly, the churchyard is open to the public and you may be fortunate to gain access to the church itself. If you do, you may find something of the history of the village, either in the monuments or in a booklet about the church. E. A. Greening Lamborn, in his book The English Parish Church, wrote in 1929:
"The most precious inheritance of the English is their poety and their parish churches. These are our unique possessions, our peculiar treasures; and no Englishman can take a just pride in his race or country who has not learned to appreciate and love them. The parish church is hallowed not merely by its purpose but by its age-old associations. Thirty generations have worked upon its fabric and revealed in their work their needs in this life and their ideas of another; it as been associated not merely with the great crises of their lives, with baptisms, marriages and burials, but with the daily round, the common task, the common amusement; its bells measured out their days and called them to work and rest as well as to prayer."
H. V. Morton in his In Search of England puts it even more poetically:
"These great churches are the urns which hold the ashes of England's history. The dim aisles are sacred to a past which is the splendid mother of the present, for in them are gathered the men whose lives shaped, through stress and storm, through the dense drive of arrows and the smoke of conflict, through a war of words, and through victories, and defeats and losses more magnificent than gains, the destiny of the English people."
In each article I give a brief account of the site, which is not intended to be comprehensive but to give a summary of the main features that attracted my attention. Full bibliographic details are provided for all my sources of information, without which this website would be only a collection of photographs. My page titles below give the counties as they were before the local government reorganisation of 1974.
|Arbour Low, Derbyshire||Dorchester on Thames, Oxfordshire||Rufford Abbey, Nottinghamshire|
|Ashbourne, Derbyshire, (3 pages)||Elmley Castle, Worcestershire a slide show||Rushton Lodge Northamptonshire|
|Banbury, Oxfordshire||Great Chalfield, Wiltshire||Ryhall, Rutland|
|Belchamp Walter, Essex||Great Cubley, Derbyshire||Sankey Valley, Lancashire|
|Blickling, Norfolk||Great Tew, Oxfordshire||Sawley Abbey, Lancashire|
|Bolton Priory, Yorkshire||Hanbury Hall and Church, Worcestershire||Shirley, Derbyshire|
|Boscobel House, Shropshire||Hartington, Derbyshire||Somersall Herbert, Derbyshire|
|Bosham, Hampshire||Harvington Hall, Worcestershire||Southwell Minster, Nottinghamshire|
|Boston, Lincolnshire||Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire||South Wraxall, Wiltshire|
|Boylestone, Derbyshire||Kenilworth Castle, a slide show||Speke Hall, Lancashire|
|Breedon on the Hill, Leicestershire||Kirby Hall, Northamptonshire a slide show||Stoke-by-Clare, Suffolk|
|Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire (3 pages)||Lacock, Wiltshire||Stoke near Hartland, Devon|
|Bridgnorth, Shropshire, a slide show||Longford, Derbyshire||Stow-in-Lindsey Minster, Lincolnshire|
|Castle Combe, Wiltshire||Market Drayton, Shropshire||Swarkestone Bridge, Derbyshire|
|Charlbury, Oxfordshire||Marston Montgomery, Derbyshire||Titchfield Abbey, Hampshire|
|Chenies Manor, Buckinghamshire||Melbourne, Derbyshire||Welcombe, Devon|
|Child's Ercall, Shropshire||Norbury, Derbyshire||Westwood, Wiltshire|
|Church Broughton, Derbyshire||Oakham, Rutland||Whalley Abbey, Lancashire, a slide show|
|Clifton Hampden, Oxfordshire||Over Haddon, Derbyshire||Whitly Court, Worcestershire, a slide show|
|Cockersand Abbey, Lancashire||Radbourne & Dalbury, Derbyshire||Wissington, Suffolk|
|Doddington Hall, Lincolnshire||Rodney's Pillar||Woolfardisworthy, Devon|
Here are some slide shows of some great days out in England. Broadband connection is advisable.
|Festival of History 2007||The Great Northwood Bowmen||Bolsover Castle, Derbyshire|
|Manor Farm, Hampshire||Festival of History 2010||Navy Day, Portsmouth 2010|
|Chiltern Open Air Museum|
A few years ago Ken Livingstone, then Mayor of London, proposed removing statues of Generals Havelock and Napier from Trafalgar Square on the grounds that nobody knew who they were. The bronze statue of Napier in Trafalgar Square, by G. G. Adams was erected by public subscription. Adams also executed a marble statue of Napier, which can be seen in St. Paul's cathedral. Ken Livingstone probably suspected that Havelock and Napier had been active in colonial campaigns that it was not politically correct to recall. However, by the standards of their time, they did what their country wanted and were undoubtedly brave and resourceful. I will be adding short articles on a few British heroes whose monuments I have encountered in my travels around the British Isles.
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(Page updated 28 November, 2013 )