Category Archives: Historical Buildings

St.Paul’s Cathedral

St.Pauls cathedral

According to the writings of St.Bede an English Monk who lived between 673-735, who wrote the works: “Ecclesiastical History of the English People,” in Latin, we learn much of its early history.

Pope Gregory I sent Mellitus, a member of the Gregorian mission to England in June AD601, in a response to an appeal from Augustine the first Archbishop of Canterbury.  His mission was to convert the Anglo-Saxons from their native paganism to Christianity.

Archaelogical evidence tells us there was a late-Roman Episcopalsee in Lundenwic better known to us now as London, and this became the chosen city of the first Saxon cathedral built by Mellitus in AD604.  He who would become the first Bishop of London, and the third Archbishop of Canterbury, and was buried in St.Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury on 24thApril AD624.

The early cathedral had been made in a rudimental styled chapel, and constructed out of wood, which was the common building material at the time.

It is a consensus of opinion that the building may have been destroyed after he left the city and took up the post of Archbishop of Canterbury, by his pagan successors.

The cathedral was rebuilt in AD886, and completely destroyed by fire in AD 962.

A new cathedral was built in 962, and it housed the body of King Ethelred I, the Saxon King who died in 871.  Sadly the building was destroyed by fire, along with the whole city in 1087.

The rebuild of St.Pauls commenced by the Normans after the fire in 1087, and took over 200 years to complete, but the fire of 1136 destroyed much of the building.

They never learnt their mistakes from previous builds, for they constructed the roof out of wood, which would ultimately doom the building to disaster.

In 1240 the church was consecrated, and by 1256 an enlargement programme had been started, it was consecrated in 1300 and completed in 1314.

It was to become the third-longest church in all Europe at 585 feet, 100 feet wide, 290 feet across the transepts and crossing with a spire some 489 feet bursting towards the skyline.

Henry VIII came to the throne on 21stApril 1509, but it was his zest for a male heir and son to the English Throne, which started the conflict with the Pope. Eventually by Act of Parliament, he made himself head of the Church of England.

The Royal coffer’s needed money, and High Church officials, had become rich figureheads in Henry’s eyes.

For it was in 1538, Henry took his most forceful step against the power and wealth of the church. “The Dissolution of the Monasteries,” which led to the destruction of interior ornamentation, the cloisters, crypts, chapels and shrines.  Much of the building materials of St.Paul’s was used in the construction of Somerset House.

In 1561, lightning destroyed the spire of St.Paul’s; Protestants and Roman Catholics believed it was a sign of God’s displeasure.

Inigo Jones, an English classical architect of the time, added the west front in the 1630’s. During the Civil War, the building suffered much…  Then St.Paul’s was gutted by fire, during the “Great Fire of London in 1666.”

While the building might have been saved, a major construction would be required, and it was at this point, they decided to build a new St.Paul’s Cathedral.  The task was assigned to Sir Christopher Wren on 30thJuly 1669.

It was not until June 1675, that the first stone was laid.  He had submitted five designs, and the accepted design resembled that of St.Peter’s Basilica in Rome, with saucer domes inspired by the works of Francois Mansart’s Val-de-Grace, as he had seen in Paris.

In 1666, a spark from Farryner’s bakery had caused the “Great Fire of London,” and it was not until December 1697, that the newly built St.Paul’s cathedral, opened its doors for use.

The Right Reverend Henry Compton, Bishop of London, preached the first sermon to echo through the walls, of this grand new cathedral.  He based his sermon on Psalm 122; “I was glad when they said unto me: Let us go into the house of the Lord.”

The final stone, placed on the lantern, took place in October 1708, and Parliament declared it officially completed on 25thDecember 1711.  Additional work carried on, for the next few years, which included roof statues in the 1720’s.

The Cathedral is built of Portland stone, sat on the soft London earth in a Renaissance style, that represents Wren’s vision of an English Baroque building.  It rises 365 feet high, dominating both the historical and modern city of London.

Located off the Nave are the chapels:

The Chapel of All Souls

The Chapel of St.Dunstan

The Chapel of St,Michael

The Chapel of St.George

The inner dome, rises 108.4 metres and holds three circular galleries:

The Whispering Gallery

The Stone Gallery

The Golden Gallery

The clock mechanism was built in 1893 by Smith’s of Derby, and similar in design to that used in Big Ben.

The north-west tower houses thirteen bells, whilst the south-west houses four bells, including the Great Paul bell weighing in at 16.5 tons cast in 1881 by Taylor’s bell foundry of Loughborough.

The organ currently dates back to 1694, when it was commissioned during the reign of William III and Mary, and is the third largest organ in use in Great Britain.  It containes 7,266 pipes with 5 manuals, 189 ranks of pipes, and 108 stops enclosed in a case built by Grinling Gibbons.


London was targeted night after night during World War Two, as thousands of bombs were dropped on her, and much was destroyed but St.Paul’s managed to survive, little scathed by the events.

On 12thSeptember 1940 a time-delayed bomb struck her, and was successfully defused.  Another bomb hit her her on 10thOctober 1940, causing minor damage.  Then on 29thDecember 1940, the cathedral came close to being be destroyed, when an incendiary bomb got lodged into the dome, but fell onto the Stone Gallery and was put out before it could do any damage.

The cathedral crypt holds some two hundred plus memorials, and the first person to be interred was Sir Christopher Wren in 1723.  The words written above his tomb: Reader, if you seek his monument, look around you.

Most of the memorials found within the walls of St.Paul’s Cathedral, commemorate British military personnel.  There are special monuments for: Lord Nelson, Duke of Wellington, T.E.Lawrence, and Florence Nightingale.

The Cathedral has seen many famous funerals: Horatio Nelson, Duke of Wellington and Sir Winston Churchill.

There is an American Memorial Chapel in the Apse (at the eastern end), for the 28,000 Americans who were stationed in England during World War Two, and lost their lives in battle.

A Roll of Honour sits before the Chapel’s altar.  Three windows within the chapel are centred on the theme of service and sacrifice, with the US armed forces insignia around the edges.


France: Paris Landmarks

Notre Dame
Notre Dame

Notre Dame de Paris, also known as Notre Dame Cathedral or simply Notre Dame, is a historic Roman Catholic Marian cathedral in Paris, France. Widely considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture and among the largest and most well-known church in the world ever built.

Notre Dame de Paris is often reputed to be one of the most prominent examples of Gothic architecture in both France and in Europe as a whole, and the naturalism of its sculptures and stained glass are in contrast with earlier Romanesque architecture. The first period of construction was from 1163 into 1240′s, and was finally completed by 1345.

The cathedral suffered desecration during the radical phase of the French Revolution in the 1790s, when much of its religious imagery was damaged or destroyed. An extensive restoration supervised by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc removed remaining decoration, returning the cathedral to an ‘original’ gothic state.

She has witnessed centuries of events in French History flow past her including the in French Revolution along, with the waters of the River Seine.  Its famous gargoyles, supposed there to guard against evil spirits, have suffered from years of history.

The great Paris Cathedral has seen crusaders and kings praying within her walls before going off to battle.

It was here in 1431 King Henry VI of England was crowned King of France, and Napoleon was crowned emperor to the backdrop of an 8,000 pipe Grand Organ.

Sacre Coeur
Sacre Coeur

The inspiration for Sacre Coeur’s design, rose from the decades following the French Revolution between Catholics and Royalists on one side, and democrats, secularists, socialists and radicals on the other side.  This fine building is dedicated to those who lost their lives in battle.

Paul Abadie was commissioned to design the Basilica of Sacre Coeur, and the foundation stone was laid on 16thJune 1875 at the summit of Montmarte.

The Basilica of Sacre Coeur is built of travertine stone quarried at the Chateau-Landon (Seine-et-Marne), France.  The stone is known to constantly exude calcite, which ensures that the Basilica of Sacre Coeur remains white at all times, no amount of weathering or pollution would change its colour.

The grounds include a garden set aside for meditation, with a fountain.  The top of the dome affords a spectacular view of the city of Paris.

The pipe organ built by Aristide Cavaille-Coll was composed of 109 ranks, 78 speaking stops spread across four 61 note manuals and a 32 note pedal board was installed in 1905.

Sadly Paul Adadie never lived long enough to see the completion of the Basilica of Sacre Coeur, for he died in 1884.  Honore Daumet (1884-1886), Jean-Charles Laisne (1886-1891), Henri-Pierre-Marie Rauline (1891-1904), Lucien Magne (1904-1916) and Jean-Louis Hulot (1916-1924), continued his work through the years to its completion.  Basilica of Sacre Coeur was formerly dedicated in 1919, after World War I.

Construction costs came in at seven million French Francs, and paid for entirely by private funding.

Even to this day the Basilica of Sacre Coeur observes a state of silence, as much as possible, so as not to disturb people who attend this place in pilgrimage.

(The word Basilica refers to said building being a Catholic Pilgrimage site).

Eiffel Tower by A.G. Photographe
Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower is probably Europe’s best known landmark and one of Paris’s most famous landmarks.  This world famous structure can be seen from all parts of the city, as the tower rises some 300 meters (984 ft), into the skyline.

The Eiffel Tower was built for the World Exhibition in 1889, held in celebration of the French Revolution of 1789. Originally built to last the duration of the World Exhibition, has remained part of its skyline ever since.Who could imagine Paris without the Eiffel Tower, in fact it has become the symbol of the City of Light.

The man behind the Eiffel Tower was Gustave Eiffel, also known for the construction of the Statue of Liberty’siron framework.

The structure took more than two years to complete. Each one of the about 12,000 iron pieces were designed separately to give them exactly the shape needed. All pieces were prefabricated and fit together using some seven million nails.

Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe in Parisis considered one of the most monumental arches, ever built.  Construction took place between  1806 and 1836.

The Arc de Triomphestands at the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle, also known as the “Place de l’Étoile”, with its nineteenth century decorative styled sculpture.

This arch was built in honour of those who fought for France, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars.

Engraved list the names of the generals and wars.  There are inscriptions in the ground underneath the vault of the arch which include the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.  It was on 11thNovember 1923 the memorial flame was installed and since that moment, the flame has never been extinguished, making this a highly revered and patriotic site.

The Arc de Triomphestands 49.5 m (162 ft) tall, 45 m (150 ft) wide and 22 m (72 ft) deep. The vault is 29.19 m (95.8 ft) high and 14.62 m (48.0 ft) wide. The smaller vault is 18.68 m (61.3 ft) high and 8.44 m (27.7 ft) wide.

Champs Elysees


The Champs-Elysees runs 1.91km from the Palace de la Concorde in the east, with the Obelisk of Luxor to the Place Charles de Gaulle formerly the (Place de I’Etoile) in the west, the location of the Arc de Triomphe.  The Champs-Elysees ends at the Arc de Triomphe, built to honour those who died fighting for their beloved homeland of France.

The Champs-Elysees was originally nothing more than fields and market gardens, but all that changed in 1616 when Marie de Medici extended it with an avenue of trees. Then King Louis XIV had it transformed by landscape architect Andre Le Notre and completed by 1670, when it was known as the “Grand Cours”.  It did not take on the name of Champs-Elysees until 1709.

By the late 18thcentury, the Champs-Elysees had become a fashionable avenue, and in 1860 merchants formed an association to promote the avenue.  It has become one of the most famous streets for upscale shopping, with Cartier, Nike, Benetton and major stores selling top quality merchandise.

What started out as fields and market gardens has changed in all so many ways, to become one of the best known shopping avenues worldwide.

Images: Wikipedia – AG Photos – Self

France: The Louvre

Louvre at night
The Louvre

The Louvre, in its successive architectural metamorphoses, has dominated central Paris since the late 12thcentury.  Built on the city’s western edge, the original structure was gradually engulfed as the city grew.  The dark fortress of the early days was transformed into the modernised dwelling of Francoise I and later, the sumptuous palace of King Louis XIV.

During the forty-three-year reign of Philippee Auguste (1180-1223), the power and influence of the French monarchy gre considerably, both inside and outside the kingdom.  In 1190, a rampart was built around Paris, which was Europe’s biggest city at the time.  To protect the capital from the Anglo-Norman threat,   the King decided to reinforce its defences with a fortress, which came to be known as the Louvre.  It was built to the west of the city, on the banks of the River Seine.

Philippee Auguste’s fortress of 1190 was not a royal residence but a sizeable arsenal comprising of a moated quadrilateral with round bastions at each corner, and at the centre of the north and west walls, measuring some seventy-eight by seventy-two metres in size.  Defensive towers flanked the narrow gates in the south and east walls.  At the centre of this complex stood the large keep, some fifteen metres in diameter and thirty metres high.  Two inner buildings abutted the outer walls on the west and south sides.

In 1356-1358, saw the fortress increase in size, giving the additional defence, amidst the onset of the Hundred Years War with England.  Then in 1364, King Charles V converted the former fortress into a Royal Palace.

Louvre Gallery
The Gallery

From 1624, under the reigns of King Louis XIII and King Louis XIV, the building underwent major extensions.  In 1692, it became a meeting place for the artistic and intellectual, and a gallery within for antique sculptures.  This was the first step in a long road, converting the former fortress into a museum.

In 1791, following the 1789 Revolution, the Louvre continued expanding and acquiring  new collections, and in 1883 became dedicated to arts and culture, until its expansion came to an abrupt halt in 1939.

With the impending breakout of World War II in 1939, the museum closed, and collections were evacuated, with the exception of larger items.  So when the Germans invaded Paris in 1940, and the Louvre was re-opened, it was almost empty.

In 1981 by order of the French President “Francois Mitterand” remaining government departments, working out of the Louvre were moved out, making the Louvre dedicated to its activity as a museum.

In November 1983, the extensive extension and modernization of the Louvre was taken on by Chinese-American architect Leoh Ming Pei.  He was responsible for the glass pyramid which was inaugurated on 30thMarch 1989.

Then in 1993, glazed roofs covered three inner courtyards creating new displays of monumental sculptures.

The Louvre is an ever expanding museum, once built for war, now holding some of the most famous paintings, sculptures etc, for the entire world to see!

Shakespeare: Globe Theatre

The Globe Theatre

In 1594, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England, Shakespeare needed a playing company to perform his plays to the public.  So it was, that the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men” were born with him being one of the owners.

Richard Burbage would play most of the leading roles, which would have included; Hamlet, Othello and Macbeth to name just a few, whilst Shakespeare himself would have performed many of the secondary parts.

Shakespeare wrote most of his plays to be performed by the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men,” and they played to their audience at “The Theatre” in Shoreditch, then in 1597 they moved to the “Curtain Theatre,” following a dispute with their landlord.

His need for larger premises saw the ambitious construction of the “Globe Theatre” in Southwark, built in 1599.

For it was on the 29thDecember 1598 that “The Theatre” in Shoreditch was dismantled, and the main beams moved to south of the River Thames: “The Globe Theatre,” in Southwark.

The original Globe Theatre was a three-storey open-air amphitheatre, some 100 feet in diameter, and easily capable of housing 3,000 spectators.

Located at the base of the stage, we find an area referred to as the pit, which was for standing room only.  It was common practice in this design, to locate larger columns on either side of the stage as support for a roof over the rear area of stage.  The ceiling area would be painted with what appeared to be sky and clouds, representing the heavens.  A trap door would be located in the heavens, allowing performers to descend using a harness.

The Globe became a joint venture, as in the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men” sharing in profits and debts: Richard Burbage – Cuthbert Burbage – William Shakespeare – John Heminges – Augustine Phillips – Thomas Pope.

With its first performance being held on the 21stSeptember 1599 in their new playhouse: Julius Ceasar.

William Shakespeare’s wealth grew, with each and every production drawing in the crowds to witness the plays of this man.  He who had no formal training according to a critic of his work; Robert Greene, yet he was popular.  Many of his plays were being published, and his name attracted many to read his works.

In 1603, Queen Elizabeth I died, and King James I ascended to the English throne, and became their new patron.  They changed their name to the “King’s Men” in response.  The company then held exclusive rights for the performances of William Shakespeare plays.

The “Globe Theatre” was destroyed by fire on 29thJune 1613, during a performance of Henry VIII. It is said a theatrical cannon misfired setting the wooden beams and thatched roof into a blazing inferno. She was rebuilt by June 1614.

“The Globe” suffered the same fate as many other London theatres in 1642; being closed, and demolished in 1644, making way for tenements, by order of the Puritans.  Thankfully, William Shakespeare had not been alive to see his dream torn down.

Wikipedia Image

The Tower’s Past

tower of london

The Tower of London is a historic castle, located on the north bank of the River Thames; overlooking Saxon London.  Made up of three separate parts in relation to its construction.

The innermost and earliest phase of the castle would be the White Tower, built during the reign of William the Conqueror (1066-1087).  This would be encircled to the north; east and west by the inner section built during the reign of Richard the Lionheart (1189-1199).  The final section which encompasses the castle was built during the reign of Edward I (1272-1307).

The White Tower is the Castle’s Keep, and considered the strongest structure in any build, and in this case, home for the King – Queen or their representative.  Measuring some 118 feet by 105 feet, rising to 90 feet at its battlements, and three storey’s high.

Each floor was divided into three chambers, with a spiral staircase located in the north-eastern tower.

Kentish rag-stone became the main building material along with Caen stone, imported from France for the tower’s facing.  However, most of the early stone works have been replaced in the 17thand 18thcenturies with Portland Stone.

At least six ravens are kept at the Tower of London at all times, in accordance with the belief that if they are absent, the kingdom will fall.

Over the centuries it has served as a Prison – Armoury – Treasury – Royal Mint – Public Records Office and home of the Crown Jewels.

When we think of the Tower, we remember those who had fallen out of favour, and were executed on Tower Hill during the 16thand 17thcenturies.  Seven others are known to have been privately executed within the Tower Walls; on Tower Green.

13thJune 1483:  William Hastings, 1stBaron Hastings. When King Edward died in 1483 he was a staunch and loyal supporter of King Edward’s young son – Edward V.  He was arrested on charges of treason by the dead King Edward IV’s brother Richard on route to the young prince’s coronation. The two young princes were declared illegitimate and, as next in line to the throne, their uncle and Protector, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, was declared the true King and was crowned Richard III.  The two princes disappeared and William Hastings was executed without trial.

19thMay 1536:  Queen Anne Boleyn, was the second wife of King Henry VIII.  He lost interest in her, and fell in love with Jane Seymour and had her arrested on charges of treason, adultery, and incest with her brother George Boleyn, Lord Rochford.  Death by axe was a terrifying prospect to anyone, and executioners often took several attempts before the head was finally severed.  Anne was therefore granted some clemency and a swordsman was called from France to undertake the execution.

27thMay 1541:  Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury was the last direct descendant of the Plantagenet line; she was a descendant of King Edward III.  The countess made the mistake of appearing to side with Katharine of Aragon against the King and he declared her a traitor.  She was not given a trial.  She was dragged to the block but refused to lay her head upon the block.  The executioner made a gash in her shoulder, as she struggled.  She leapt from the block and was chased by the executioner, with his axe.  She was struck eleven times before she finally died.

13thFebruary 1542:  Catherine Howard, Queen of England, was the fifth wife of King Henry VIII and cousin of Anne Boleyn. After her marriage to Henry VIII she had an affair with the young and handsome Thomas Culpepper.  King Henry found out about the affair and was devastated. Catherine was arrested at Hampton Court for adultery.  Her lovers were executed, and their heads were impaled on London Bridge.  She was 18 years old when she was executed.

13thFebruary 1542:  Jane Boleyn, Viscountess Rochford, wife of George Boleyn, the brother of Queen Anne Boleyn who had been executed on the trumped up charge of incest with his sister.  She was instrumental in the arrest of her sister-in-law, Anne and her husband George Boleyn, providing evidence against them to Thomas Cromwell.  Her sworn testimony helped convict them of incest and treason.  The allegations were completely false.  She later became a Lady of the Privy Chamber to Catherine Howard. Jane Rochford revelled in intrigue and encouraged the young queen in her affair with Thomas Culpepper.  Her part in this was discovered and she was arrested and taken to the Tower of London.

12thFebruary 1554:  Lady Jane Grey, Queen of England for just nine days.  Edward V a devout Protestant and Henry VIII’s only son died of tuberculosis and he left the throne to the “Lady Jane Grey” and her male heirs.  Jane Grey was the puppet of her ambitious parents.  She was proclaimed Queen of England.  On 19thJuly 1553 Queen Jane was deposed as Queen, and she raised no objections, as the Catholic Princess Mary was the rightful heir. Lady Jane Grey and her husband were imprisoned in the Tower, and executed on 12thFebruary 1554.

25thFebruary 1601:  Robert Devereux 2ndEarl of Essex and a favourite of Queen Elizabeth.  He led a rebellion against Queen Elizabeth and attempted to seize control of the City of London on 8thFebruary 1601.  He was arrested and convicted of treason, and executed on 25thFebruary 1601.

In the First and Second World Wars, the Tower of London was used as a prison, and witnessed the executions of twelve men on the charge of espionage against their country; England.

Other famous characters in our history have been executed on Tower Hill, including the likes of Guy Fawkes, Sir Walter Raleigh & William Wallace, along with petty criminals, thieves and murderers, where the crowds gather to watch the executions.

One mystery that has never been solved has to be the disappearance and highly probable murder of the two young princes: Edward and Richard in 1483.

Here are the facts, for you to make up your own opinion of what happened to them:

When King Edward IV died in 1483, the throne should have gone to his son, Edward V, with Edward’s brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester as his Protector, until Edward V could rule.

Within three months, Richard Duke of Gloucester had convinced Parliament to rule the young princes as illegitimate, for they were actually his other brother’s children, The Duke of Clarence, who was executed privately for treason.

Furthermore there had been an earlier contract of marriage between himself and Lady Eleanor Butler before he married Elizabeth Woodville in 1464.

This proved to be enough evidence and Parliament conferred him to be the rightful heir to the English Throne, making him King Richard III.

So much so, for brotherly love.

Maybe he got his comeuppance for his dastardly actions.  On 14thApril 1484 his son Edward of Middleham died; cause unknown, then in March 1485, his wife died of tuberculosis.

King Richard’s reign had been overshadowed by the threat of a Tudor invasion.  It was in August 1485 they landed, and both armies clashed on Boswoth Field, where he was slain in the battle. His time as King was short lived.

So the obvious question that is asked by so many.  Did he kill the two young princes himself, or did he order their execution.

Which ever way we look at it, Prince Edward V, stood in his way of him becoming King of England. Once they were both declared illegitimate he couldn’t have them around, for he did not know what trouble they could cause in later years, and what supporter’s they had.

The Tower of London, like so many other historical buildings has its own collection of ghosts roaming the corridors.

According to the definition of what a ghost actually is.  The soul is not able to rest in peace and they remain in old but familiar places.  It could be caused by the brutal way in which they died, for that reason they are unable to pass from this world to the next.

There have been a number of sightings over the years: It is said Anne Boleyn’s ghost wanders around the White Tower, Tower Green and the Chapel of St.Peter ad Vincula where her headless body was interred.

In 1864, her ghost-like figure was challenged by a sentry, whose bayonet passed right through her.

On another occasion, the Captain of the Guard witnessed a procession of people in ancient dress, led by none other than Anne Boleyn herself.

Lady Jane Grey appears on the anniversary of her death on the12th February 1554.

Sir Walter Raleigh makes his appearance now and again.  For he was sighted in 1983 and again in 1985 by a Yeoman Guard on duty.  It is said he wanders the Tower as he did when he was imprisoned.

Guy Fawkes screams can be heard echoing through the Tower, much as they did when he was tortured.

Lady Salisbury is seen running from the execution block, with the axe man chasing her.  This scene in history is played out each year on the anniversary of her death: 27thMay 1541.

According to one account by guards in the latter part of the 15thcentury.  Two small figures were spotted gliding down the tower stairs, and believed to be none other than the two young princes… Prince Edward V and his brother Prince Richard, Duke of York.

The Humble English Parish Church


One of the few sights left that evoke our love of England has to be the decaying parish church, a record of centuries of history and social change within the area.

The humble parish church is an integral part of English social life and culture, covering a period in history of 1400 years.

Churches were often located on pre-Christian sites of spiritual significance, taking advantage of people’s existing devotion to a particular place.  Churches are nearly always oriented so that the main altar is at the east end of the church, facing Jerusalem, and the rising sun.  Even if the altar end of the church is not literally in the east, it is still referred to as the East End.

Historians speculated that parish boundaries were originally those of Saxon manors.  Prior to the Norman invasion, early churches built with towers, was a defensive measure against the threat of invasion.

The chancel of the church was the domain of the priest, and the nave belonged to the parishioners. Each was responsible for the upkeep of their domain.  This may go towards explaining the unusual architecture of some early parish churches, where the chancel is built of carefully squared stone, and the nave of a cheaper flint.

The distinction between chancel and nave led to the development of rood screens to mark the division between the domain of the priest and his parishioners.  These screens were usually made of wood, and became very elaborate in their design.  Sadly many were destroyed under the Reformation and the later Puritan influence.

One point to remember is that there was no seating in churches at that time.  People attending a service stood in the nave.

The floor plan of the southern Anglo Saxon Churches was based on the traditional Roman basilica, with an eastern apse, no transepts, western entrances and aisles.

In the north the Celtic influence led to churches that were narrow, tall, and rectangular, with doors on the side.

The Norman’s rebuilt many of the earlier Saxon churches, in the process destroying much of the regional differences in favour of a more unified Norman look.

Early Norman churches were without aisles, with a central tower, and built to a cruciform plan, shaped like a cross with a small t.

Medieval parish churches were usually plastered inside and out.  Vivid pictures were painted on the interior plaster to illustrate Biblical scenes for the illiterate population.

Before the Great Plague of 1348-50 the growing population necessitated more space inside parish churches, and it was at this time, many churches added aisles.

The most notable parish churches of the late medieval period are the so-called wool churches, common to East Anglia.  These are churches endowed by the newly rich class of local merchants thriving on England’s wool trade.

The Tudor era saw one important change, under the influence of Elizabeth the first; sermons became much longer, leading to the installation of pews in the nave.  The preacher needed a pulpit and lectern which was added to the nave.  Most of the pulpits seen in parish churches date from the Tudor period.

The Tudor period saw the end of the great church building era.  Far fewer churches were built from that time to the present day, the most prominent being the classical motif of the Stuart and Georgian period, and the Gothic revival of the mid-Victorian time.

Most new parish churches were built in the ever growing cities.  Most notably in London, where the Great Fire of 1666 destroyed most of the Medieval Churches and gave a young architect – Christopher Wren an opportunity to design a new classical style of church.

Many of the old parish churches that once served prosperous villages have fallen into disuse and been abandoned as populations have shifted.