Published by Guy Points, £16.95
Review Paul Spoerry
The reader needs to be aware of the author and his previous county-based gazetteers to know what this book covers. The subject matter is not broadly archaeological, as the ‘sites’ mentioned in the title are almost entirely churches with extant pre-Norman fabric, alongside carved stonework found in and around these structures. The only non-ecclesiastical/ monastic sites mentioned are the Cambridgeshire Dykes, the reserve collection of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at Cambridge, and a few objects from the Peterborough and St Neots museums. No other aspect of Anglo-Saxon material culture is considered, and the short section answering the question ‘Who were the Anglo-Saxons?’ is straight out of the mid-20th century, paying little attention to scholars after Myres or Stenton.
Nonetheless, this is a useful volume if what you need relates to Anglo-Saxon stonework. Part 1 of the book includes a valuable glossary of Anglo-Saxon architectural terms, and an extensive descriptive typology of Anglo-Saxon and Anglo- Scandinavian stone buildings and sculptures. I have not seen this information so well summarised elsewhere and I can see that this will prove useful to many, including those researching the period whose primary knowledge lies in other evidence.
Part 2 is the gazetteer, which is comprehensive, authoritative, and well illustrated with the author’s own photographs. Whether looking for reference material, seeking comparators, or just visiting churches and looking for a good description and explanation, this resource will suit. In the manner of modern travel websites, the author gives each church one to five stars for ‘the experience’ of encountering its Anglo-Saxon fabric: a single ring-head cross built into a wall might get you one star, whereas Brixworth or Barnack churches unsurprisingly get five. Sadly, the stonework-centred theme is given away with the Devil’s Dyke – all 7½ miles of it, surviving in some places up to 9m in height from the base of the ditch to the top of the bank – which garners only one star. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, indeed.
This review appeared in CA 337.