Sir John Betjeman was born at the start of the twentieth century, and lived to become Poet Laureate, an accomplished writer and campaigner, and something of a national treasure. All his life he loved churches, which are woven into his poetic output. He wrote extensively about churches and architecture, telling a journalist in 1955 ‘If I have a mission, it is to show people things which are beautiful so that they will very soon realise what is ugly. When you look at things, instead of just looking through them, life starts absolutely crackling with interest and excitement.’
Now, Betjeman’s particular way of looking at churches is in danger of being lost in the face of a more academically driven and forensic art-historical approach. This book picks out some of the buildings, especially churches, which Betjeman was particularly fond of. It highlights and celebrates Betjeman’s more poetic, parochial and personal response to the built environment, and his evocation of the English parish church through the ordinary and the charm of hassocks, old incense and oil lamps.
Highlighting his religious, aesthetic and social pre-occupations, this book is both gazetteer and commentary on his own particular vision of England and architecture, which deserves to be celebrated afresh.
AUTHOR: David Meara is a retired Church of England clergyman who worked in the Oxford Diocese for twenty-seven years, and then served as Rector of St. Bride’s Fleet Street and Archdeacon of London until 2014. He has made a lifetime study of church movements and brasses and has published extensively on the subject. He has published on a range of topics, including Anglo-Scottish sleeper trains and the scuttling of German ships at Scapa Flow. His father-in-law fought in Burma in the Second World War.