A landmark illustrated history of rural church monuments – the forgotten national treasures of England and Wales
Deep in the countryside, away from metropolitan abbeys and cathedrals, thousands of funerary monuments are hidden in parish churches. These artworks – medieval brasses and elegant marble effigies, stone tomb chests and grand mausoleums – are of great historical and cultural significance, but have, due to their relative inaccessibility, faded from accounts of our art history.
Over twenty-five years, C. B. Newham FSA has visited and photographed more than eight thousand rural churches, cataloguing the monumental sculptures encountered on his quest. In Country Church Monuments, he presents 365 of the very best, each accompanied by detailed photographs, biographies of both the deceased and their sculptors and a wealth of contextual material. Many of these works commemorate famous historical figures, from scheming Tudor courtier Richard Rich to Victorian prime minister William Ewart Gladstone. But more moving are the countless others – minor aristocrats, small-time industrialists, much-loved mothers, fathers and children – who, if not for their memorials, would wholly be lost to time.
As Newham blows the dust off these artworks and breathes life into the stories they tell, a new aesthetic history of rural England and Wales emerges. Country Church Monuments is a poignant record of the art we make at the borders of life and death, of our ceaseless human striving for eternity.