Cathedrals of Britain: Central and East Book ReviewPosted: 2018-12-03
I'm a church mouse. I love visiting historic churches around Britain. Every time I open a medieval church door I feel like Aladdin walking into his cave of wonders. My bookshelf is full of guidebooks to historic churches in different counties and regions, from country churches to cathedrals. With so many guidebooks already at my disposal, why would I want another one?
Bernadette Fallon, the author of the Cathedrals of Britain series from Pen and Sword Books, has the answer to that question. I've just had the pleasure - and I do mean pleasure - of reading 'Cathedrals of Britain: Central and East'.
This small volume covers just 7 cathedrals; Ely, Lincoln, Norwich, Peterborough, Lichfield, St Edmundsbury (Bury St Edmunds) and Oxford. When I say small, it is perhaps too large to slip into a jacket pocket but easily small enough to carry around in a purse or daypack.
What sets this guidebook apart from others in my collection is how easy it is to read and how well the author highlights 'Curious Facts' about each cathedral and 'Don't Miss' historical highlights. That means that I can see at a glance what interesting features I should look out for, and interesting snippets of history that helps make the story of each cathedral come alive.
The text is engaging and very easy to read. It is aimed at a general tourist audience with an interest in history but it doesn't assume any great knowledge of cathedrals or historical detail.
The author also does something I've never seen in another cathedral guidebook before; each section ends with a look at what to see and do in that city apart from the cathedral. So, for example, the Ely Cathedral chapter ends with a look at the Ely Trail, a circular tour linking historical highlights near the cathedral, such as Oliver Cromwell's House, the medieval Bishop's Palace, and Ely Museum.
There are even recommendations on interesting places to stay and eat near the cathedral. These details make Cathedrals of Britain much more useful to a tourist who wants to make the most of visiting the area rather than a guide that just talks about what to see inside the cathedral itself.
The book ends with a handy glossary of terms that you will run across, from parts of a church like a misericord or an ambulatory to historical terms like The Reformation or the Act of Supremacy.
There is also a suggested reading list that is, shall we say, varied? The list contains other regional titles in the Cathedrals of Britain series but also titles such as Hamlet by William Shakespeare, the Canterbury Tales, and Alice's Adventures Through the Looking Glass.
I will definitely be using this handy little guide on my next cathedral visit - and it has now found a spot on my bookshelf.
Cathedrals of Britain: Central and East is available from Pen and Sword Books.