4 out of 5 stars
Whilst not particularly religious, Dixe Wills still takes time to pop into most of the churches that he passes as he travels around the countryside on his bike. These places are not huge edifices that can seat hundreds, rather they are modest buildings that have served the needs of their local communities for years, and in quite a lot of cases hundreds and hundreds of years.
For this book, Wills has had to reduce his shortlist down to 60 buildings and in line with his other books, he has chosen the smallest of them. Even the largest of those his has picked can seat 30 or so at a squeeze, but most only have room for a dozen or so. The range of building he has selected too is impressive, there are places that disappeared and the buildings were discovered much later with original architecture intact. He visits an amazing chapel made from Nissan Huts by Italian Prisoners of War WW2 up in Orkney. There are buildings that highlight the Romanesque, the Gothic and even takes us to the oldest wooden church in the country. It never ceases to amaze me just how old some of these places are. Frequently Norman and a significant number of churches with Anglo Saxon origins and even one with Roman foundations.
It is not a spiritual journey rather a pilgrimage to the tiny, quirky and always impressive spiritual focal points of villages and towns. I like Will writing style as he always manages to find lots of interesting things to say about any of the subjects that he is writing about, and this is no different, each church has a potted history of its significant features and his own personal take of his visit. Most importantly you can go and visit these yourself, clear details are given on how to get there and each mini-biography is accompanied by lovely photos of the church in question and some of the internal fittings and settings. Not just a book for the architecture buff, but one for those that have a passing interest in the places they are rooted in. A good companion volume to The King of Dust by Alex Woodcock.