|If you are one of those people who donít know a crocket from a crumpet, or a Flying Fortress from a flying buttress, this is the book for you. In practice, there are two main factors which prevent a building standing in an unaltered state for, say, six hundred years: one is the natural tendency of things to fall down, and the other is the remorseless march of fashion. It is part of the very nature of human existence that what one man builds is no sooner completed, than another declares it out of fashion, a third redundant, and a fourth seeks to tear it down. Even such a landmark figure as Sir Christopher Wren, were he to return today, would only find eleven of his fifty-one churches intact.
People built churches out of local materials, or what was to hand, and sometimes with limited knowledge, experimenting along the way. Sometimes the walls stayed up, sometimes not. Add to this the fact that the taxation system favours redevelopment, and that laws exist to prevent the repair of old buildings (see under "planning" and "listed buildings") and it becomes a matter of amazement that not just a few samples, but a whole family of structures with a history commencing in the dark ages, have survived. Unlike most authors on the subject, Owen Jordan eschews the chronological approach and the battle of the styles. He is much more concerned with why the tower fell down than what period it belonged to. To read this book is to delve into deconstruction: to have the fabric of the English Church taken apart by an expert and re-assembled before your eyes. This book is intended to be a working handbook of English church architecture; a guide not only to what you can see, but what it is you are actually looking at, and in some cases where it can be found. For a long while, the world of ecclesiology and archtectural history has been waiting for someone to take churches apart rather than simply catalogue their features in chronological order: what sets this guide apart is that, perhaps, having read it, you could - given the time, means, materials, and opportunity, go out and build a church, and even avoid the mistakes made by the medieval masons, and learn something along the way. But beware - the next person may want to alter it!