This guide is intended to help fieldworkers with their documentary research into site reports, by pointing out some of the resources available for even the least promising parish church or chapel. The sections on History and Comments/Opinions in many of our site reports are empty or nearly so, and I hope that this will enable fieldworkers to find something to write in these fields.
A County Bibliography
You are strongly advised to begin a county bibliography as soon as you begin work on your county, and to update it conscientiously as new works are discovered. That way you will build up a comprehensive research tool, and you will be able to copy and paste entries from it into your site reports, saving yourself a lot of tedious typing.
The Pevsner Architectural Guides
These books form the basis of our identification of Romanesque sites in England, Scotland and Wales. Pevsner began his work in England in 1947. The first to be published was Cornwall (1951), and Nottinghamshire and Middlesex were published in the same year. This original series came to an end with Staffordshire in 1974. Work began in Ireland in 1979, but to date (April 2015) only four volumes have been published (NW Ulster (1979), North Leinster (1993), Dublin (2005), and S Ulster (2013)). It must be remembered that the original fieldwork for the first editions was all Pevsner’s own, and that he rarely spent more than a month on each county. There was very little documentary work involved, and while we can only marvel at the man’s virtuosity, there are omissions and errors throughout the series. Pevsner was a man with strong opinions, pithily expressed throughout the series. He seems to have had a blind spot for fonts, and often omitted to mention them, especially if they were plain.
Work on updating the series began in the 1970s, allowing for the inclusion of more documentary material and expanded introductory essays. The most recent editions (often third editions) are much larger than the pocketbooks that Pevsner envisaged, with major introductory essays on geology and building materials, landscape and prehistory. The authors rely to some extent on contributions from specialists, but they try to retain Pevsner’s voice.
The Corpus uses the Pevsner Architectural Guides to identify sites to be visited. When it comes to writing site reports, Pevsner’s comments are often valuable and can be included in the Comments/Opinions section.
For the History section of reports, the Domesday Survey (please write this in full in your reports – not DS) is usually the starting point. As the editor and fieldworker for many counties I tend to use the Penguin Classics complete translation (A. Williams and G. H. Martin (ed.), Domesday Book . A Complete Translation, Alecto 1992 (Penguin Classics 2003)), but most fieldworkers will use the single-county Phillimore editions. So far I have not found a web edition that gives the complete text, so I avoid these. The information you need from the Domesday entry is the landholder (or Tenant-in-chief), the sub-tenant (usually the person who actually occupies the manor and likely to be the patron of work at the church at that time), and the presence of features like a mill, a church, a fishery or a priest. Note that churches were not routinely recorded – they were of little interest to the Domesday commissioners who were concerned largely with establishing who owned what for taxation purposes.
Victoria County History
To take the story beyond 1086, the most convenient source is the Victoria History of the Counties of England (VCH); an incomplete and ongoing project to record the history of every county in England down to parish and religious foundation level. The series began in 1899 and has been based at the Institute of Historical Research since 1933. The good news is that it is all available online. I suggest that you start from the webpagehttp://www.medievalgenealogy.org.uk/vch/counties.shtml. Many volumes of the VCH can be accessed on the website of British History Online (BHO): http://www.british-history.ac.uk. Once at your parish, look for the manors, which will take up the story where the Domesday Survey left off, and for the church, which will describe the building in some detail and equally importantly give details of the advowson (who had the right to present vicars to the church). This last is often important evidence of which manor the church was in (a Domesday holding often included several manors.
Most of the buildings you will deal with, including all parish churches, are listed by Historic England (HE), who now operate the process rather than English Heritage (EH). References to list descriptions should be included in bibliographies, and the descriptions themselves often offer opinions on dating sculpture that can be included in the Comments/Opinions section of a site report. There are several ways to access list descriptions online, including HE’s own site (http://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list). I often use the site British Listed Buildings (http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/) which covers England, Scotland and Wales. You need to know the county or unitary authority in which your parish is to be found (confusingly they call these counties – although most are not), and Wikipedia is the easiest way to find this out. Once you drill down to parish level you will be offered an alphabetical list, in which churches come under C (Church of St Mary etc.). List descriptions are often a valuable source of information about restorations, and sometimes provide leads to more bibliographic entries. To refer to a listing text you need just the HE List Entry Number, found in the heading of the entry.
Royal Commission Inventory volumes
The Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England was established in 1908, with a remit to produce an inventory of English monuments and identify those which were worthy of preservation. The series is arranged by county, but is not complete. Some 40 volumes were produced up to the early 1980s, but thereafter the approach was abandoned in favour of one that was more thematic. To find out if your county has Inventory volumes, you can browse the relevant section of British History Online (http://www.british-history.ac.uk/search/series/rchme). If you are lucky enough to be responsible for such a county, you will find that the entries are extremely informative. For Scotland and Wales, similar commissions were established at around the same time: the RCAHMS, which produced Inventories until 1992, covering about half of Scotland; and the RCAHMW, which began its series of Inventories in 1911 and discontinued the system in 2000, again leaving the country incompletely recorded.
Fieldworkers are encouraged to look into the historiography of historical research in their counties. Most counties have two or three standard works at least, dating from the 18th or 19th century and usually compiled by clergymen that might contain the kind of information that would later find its way into the Victoria County History. Distinguished examples I have come across are:
G. Ormerod, History of Cheshire. 3 vols 1816-19. (ed. T. Helsby, 1882)
D. Gilbert, The Parochial History of Cornwall. 4 vols. London 1838.
J. Bridges, The History and Antiquities of Northamptonshire. (Compiled from the manuscript collections of the late learned antiquary J.Bridges, Esq., by the Rev. Peter Whalley). Oxford 1791.
These are especially useful in those counties not covered by the VCH, and are often (because they are out of copyright) available on the Internet Archive (https://archive.org/index.php), which contains, in its texts section, many useful antiquarian books scanned by American and Canadian libraries and all freely available.
County Antiquarian Journals
A great mass of antiquarian, archaeological and architectural research is contained in the transactions and proceedings of the learned local societies that have long been a key ingredient of historical research in these islands. Fieldworkers are urged to search these volumes for articles on buildings they are researching. If they are lucky they will find at least a list of article titles online; if not the work can be done in the local library.
Guides on sale in the church can be useful sources of information, but before buying a copy, make sure that what you are getting is actually a guide to the church and its history. In many cases the guide is little more than a liturgical primer, explaining where to find various features (the altar, the font, the presbytery) and describing their functions without any specific information about them at all. For some reason too, there is often an unhealthy obsession with bells. When referring to them, look for information about author and date (sometimes not obvious). If it is genuinely anonymous, then Anon is the author.
A few books on British Romanesque Sculpture, or including it, routinely appear on university reading lists, and cover what might be called the canon of high-grade works – usually figural and foliate sculpture at, or from, major sites. In addition I have added a couple of regional or workshop studies that would form part of any serious collection. Most of the works recorded in the Corpus will not appear in any of these works, but references must be given to any that do.
T. S. R. Boase, English Art 1100-1216. Oxford 1953.
E. C. Fernie, The Architecture of Norman England, Oxford 2000.
A. Gardner, English Medieval Sculpture. Cambridge 1955
E. Gethyn-Jones. The Dymock School of Sculpture, London and Chichester 1979.
E. S. Prior & A. Gardner, An Account of Medieval Figure-Sculpture in England. Cambridge 1912.
L. Stone, Sculpture in Britain: The Middle Ages. Pelican History of Art, Harmondsworth 1955.
F. H. Thompson (ed), Studies in Medieval Sculpture. London 1983.
M. Thurlby, The Herefordshire School of Romanesque Sculpture. Logaston 1999.
M. Thurlby, Romanesque Architecture and Sculpture in Wales, Logaston 2006.
G. Zarnecki, ‘Regional Schools of English Sculpture in the Twelfth Century: the Southern School and the Herefordshire School’, unpublished PhD thesis, University of London, 1950.
G. Zarnecki, English Romanesque Sculpture 1066-1140. London, 1951.
G. Zarnecki, Later English Romanesque Sculpture 1140-1210. London 1953
G. Zarnecki, J. Holt and T. Holland (ed.), English Romanesque Art 1066-1200. Exhibition catalogue, Arts Council of Great Britain, Hayward Gallery, London, 1984.
Printed sources that are available online have been covered already, but some material was designed for online consumption, and this is increasing yearly. This is no place to attempt to cover the vast quantities of local history, photography and genealogical research that is accessible, but fieldworkers could well come across useful local history research by chance, and are encouraged to use it if it is relevant. There are, however, National and Local Government online resources that you should be aware of.
Oxford Art online (formerly The Grove Dictionary of Art)
The Grove Encyclopedia of Medieval Art and Architecture
National Online Resources
The Historic England website linked to the National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) – formerly the National Monuments Record (NMR) – is called Pastscape (http://www.pastscape.org.uk/). You will find that the information it contains is wider in range but often less detailed than the List Descriptions. If you want to refer to records in Pastscape, be aware that the Monument Numbers are not the same as the Historic England List Entry numbers.
Coflein is the online database for the National Monuments Record for Wales (NMRW). Its quick search page is to be found on
http://www.coflein.gov.uk/en/quick_search/ . Each site record has a unique National Primary Record Number (NPRN), and when citing records you should use the format: Coflein NPRN 1234.
For Scotland’s RCAHMS, the equivalent is Canmore, found on
http://canmore.rcahms.gov.uk/ . I suggest that the records are cited using the Canmore ID, found in the heading of each record (rather than the confusing Site Number).
Historic Environment Records
Counties and Unitary Authorities have a statutory obligation to keep records of the historic sites within their borders. These used to be called Sites and Monuments Records (SMR), and are now called Historic Environment Records (HER). Some authorities are better than others in maintaining the records and making them available. In some cases they can only be consulted at the County (or Unitary Authority) Record Office, but increasingly they are being made available online. Fieldworkers are advised to investigate the situation in their county by doing Google searches for the terms mentioned above. Often they simply repeat the List Description, but some authorities are more conscientious. As with the List Descriptions, HERs number their records, and this number is what you should record in your bibliography.
April 15, 2015