Book review

By Roger Bowdler; reviewed by Trevor James, published 20th February 2020

Churchyards (Britain's Heritage series), Roger Bowdler, Amberley Publishing, 2019, 64p, £8-99. ISBN 9781445691114

This book is dedicated to the memory of Frederick Burgess, the author of English Churchyard Memorials (1963), from whom many of us learned to study and understand what we find in churchyards. This carefully developed study by Roger Bowdler is different in scale from Burgess’s mammoth volume but it is a valuable resource in its own right. It is very carefully illustrated, thereby giving the reader a clear sense of what to expect to find; and varieties of design and shape are very carefully explained. These strengths are supplemented by a very helpful and strong section on the need to care for, and protect, churchyards and their memorials.

However, like Burgess before him, Roger Bowdler is really just offering us an extended, more modern, insight into graveyard memorials. Whilst this is very positive, it does not fully embrace what might additionally be found in a churchyard, in the sense that it is rather more than just a graveyard. For example, no reference is made to the former market crosses, of which there are many across England; and no reference is made to other churchyard structures, whole or ruined, such as the ground-level bell chamber in East Bergholt churchyard or the evidence of a possible second tower in the grounds of Salthouse Church, part of a complex harbour signalling system. Equally, like Burgess, this study seriously understates the significance of timber graveboards.

Nonetheless, this is strongly recommended as a handbook for local historians planning to explore and study the variety of memorials to be found in English churchyards.