Church architecture in Hertfordshire and elsewhere, art, books, and whatever crosses my path

Wednesday 27 April 2016

Newnham church, Herts - fishy murals and a memorial to Reginald Hine, historian of Hitchin

Newnham is a small village between Baldock and Ashwell; despite being only half a mile or so from the A1(M) it feels very rural. The appropriately smallish church feels as if it's trying to puff its chest out and stand on tiptoe to appear bigger than it really is by being castellated throughout (except the porch). The stair-turret being taller than the tower also gives this impression, and creates some dramatic skylines as you approach from the south-west. Most of the exterior is shrouded in Victorian cement, which tends to trap water, and is now badly stained. It's been removed from the north of the nave, (or perhaps this wall wasn't cemented in the first place), exposing uneven courses of clunch (a soft chalky limestone) rubble, which is only a marginal improvement. Nevertheless, while the church may be quite small, it's quite big on charm.

The lancet windows in the north wall of the chancel imply a 13th century origin, (and it's possible that the north wall of the nave is even older, though no architectural details remain to confirm this), but essentially the church as we see it now dates from the 14th and 15th centuries.

There's a bit of a mystery over the date of the east window. Everything I know about medieval architecture tells me that it's in the Decorated style, from the first half of the 14th century, and Pevsner agrees (noting that Abbot Wheathampstead repaired the chancel in 1420-40). The total absence of straight lines in the tracery (the decorative stonework in the top of the window) surely proves that it can't be any later. However, the Victoria County History of 1908 says 'the east window is an interesting example of three lights with a double cusped spherical triangle in the head, the details showing it to be of 15th century date, in spite of the unusual nature of the tracery. It is just such an exceptional design as might arise under the circumstances.'* It's not at all clear (at least, not to me) what 'under the circumstances' means. What circumstances? The Royal Commission on Historical Monuments volume of 1910 agrees that the window is 15th century, as does the text of the document that officially listed the building as grade II* in 1968, (noting its 'unusual tracery'). Who am I to disagree with such august authorities? But I'm still going to take some persuading that it's not Decorated.

It's worth pausing in the 15th century porch before opening the (original) door.

There are two wooden shield-bearing angels, and a great deal of graffiti carved into the soft stone.

Some of it is mysterious, such as the strange shapes above (by the west window). They remind me a little of corn-dollies, but your guess is a good as mine.

Some of it is a palimpsest of old, not quite so old and new. It looks to me as if there are a number of 'VV' symbols here, (again, next to the west window), for example, under the 20 of the date 1720. This is one of the commonest forms of medieval graffiti, consisting (or so it is thought) of two overlapping Vs, forming something like a W, and standing for 'Virgo Virginum' (Virgin of Virgins), in honour of the Virgin Mary. These shallow carvings were perhaps apotropaic, in other words intended to ward off evil. But we can't know for sure.

Someone with the initials TM (perhaps accompanied by someone with the initials AE) decided to make their mark in 1720. Much more recently, someone has etched the slogan 'war no more' and a CND symbol (though why it's upside down is as unanswerable as the meaning of the corn-dolly symbols).

At least the meaning of these crosses by the south door is clear.

On the other hand, why would someone go to the bother of engraving this leaf (or dagger, or abstract shape), also by the south door?

This fish (by the door to the stairs to the tower) might be intended to represent Christ (the Greek word for fish is an acrostic for (in English) 'Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour'), or on the other hand might have been made out of purely secular and/or casual motives. The study of medieval (and later) graffiti brings us in some ways very close to ordinary people of earlier ages - we can literally touch the messages they've left behind - yet in other ways they remain frustratingly out of reach, as interpreting the messages is no more than educated guesswork.**

The interior of the church isn't crammed with objects of delight, yet it's very pleasing; it feels relatively unrestored, despite the Victorian roofs and fittings. The first thing you see as you enter the church (it's deliberately positioned opposite the door to maximise its visibility) is a large wall painting of St Christopher carrying the infant Christ across a river. Unfortunately, it's not at all well preserved (Cottered has a rather better example) and the only details that can be enjoyed are the seven vigorous fish flashing around the saint's feet between the rocks of the river bank.

All seven are different and perhaps represent separate species; someone with greater piscatorial proficiency than me might be able to name them. Is the one on the right of the picture above a flounder?

The ghosts of other murals can be glimpsed, but they're far too faded and fragmentary to be of any aesthetic interest.

The one above, for example, (by the easternmost north nave window) seems to represent, on the right, a cowled figure (presumably a monk), and dangling down onto the arch the tail of another fish.

The squat 14th century four bay arcade, the capitals more or less at head height, leans to the south. The south aisle has four plain 15th century pews, similar to those at Wallington, a rustic brick floor and a mid 19th century organ in a naive Gothic case.

The normally reliable and astute Shell Guide: Hertfordshire goes overboard by calling the font 'glorious' (it's a pretty standard 15th century design, and rather knocked around), and the monuments 'handsome' (there are only two of any note, again not especially exciting).

Font, detail
The very simple First World War memorial records that of the twenty-one villagers who went to fight, only one died. The similar Second World War memorial lists the women who served as well as the men, which I don't think I've noticed anywhere else (though perhaps I've just not been paying enough attention to such details).

At the east end of the south aisle is a tapestry by Percy Sheldrick (1890-1979), who was born and lived most of his life in nearby Ashwell. He became a famous needleworker, working as a tapestry weaver for the firm of Morris and Co (founded, of course, by William Morris). It commemorates Reginald Hine (1883-1949), the historian of Hitchin. He was born in Newnham, and worked as a solicitor, though his heart wasn't really in it. His passion was local history, and he published a two volume work on Hitchin (1927 and 1929), which has been recognised as a model of its kind. (However, it has to be said that later historians have accused him of sometimes twisting facts to make a good story; see here, for example.) In 1946 he published the autobiographical Confessions of an Uncommon Attorney, which was a surprise best-seller, and is still a highly entertaining read today.

Sadly, he suffered from depression, and when he was threatened with being struck off as a solicitor (for apparently trying to poach other solicitors' clients) in 1949 he killed himself. After an entirely normal conversation with a friend on a platform at Hitchin station, and with a return ticket to London in his pocket, he stood up, walked to the edge and threw himself under a train.

The tapestry depicts St Vincent Saragossa (the church is dedicated to St Vincent, without being specific which of several saints of that name is being celebrated), who was martyred in about 304 by being burnt alive on a grid-iron, which is depicted in the tapestry. He holds an oversized quill pen, in reference to Hine's writings. The tapestry is based on late medieval designs and brings vivid colours into an otherwise fairly colourless church. Pevsner dates it to 1949, which would seem to be entirely plausible, but in fact Sheldrick made it as a gift for Hine during the latter's lifetime; Hine chose the design and subject matter, and it hung in his house for years. It seems eccentric to say the least to have a memorial to oneself in one's home.

Newnham church - bottom right
Immediately west of the church is a very substantial, water-filled, rectangular moat. It's obviously medieval, but beyond that I wouldn't be able to date it. None of the authorities even hazard a guess. There's no trace of a building on the island (except a shed). Was the moat constructed as a status symbol, or was it a necessary defensive measure?

Newnham church has always been open whenever I've visited, and, although it's unspectacular, I love it.

* The mystery is even odder, because in a different paragraph the VCH mentions John of Wheathampstead's repairs of 1420-40, and says that the east window must date from this time. Read the entry here and see if you can make more sense of it than I can.

** I recommend Medieval Graffiti: The Lost Voices of England's Churches, by Matthew Champion (2015).

Monday 18 April 2016


I think I can remember learning to read; that’s how I started the first draft of this memoir, but on reflection perhaps I should say, more accurately and less impressively: I think I can remember having learned to read. I wish I could be more precise. Can anyone remember learning to read? It’s a skill as important as learning to walk, but both memories are equally and sadly lost.

My parents must have read to me before I went to school and begun to teach me the alphabet and simple words, but frustratingly I remember nothing about it. I first went to school in 1962 when I was, or was just about to turn, five.  I can remember quite vividly the big high-ceilinged off-yellow room under the bell tower in what was then St Peter’s School, Wokingham (now it’s houses), next door to the Hope and Anchor pub (which was later to become important in my life). But I can’t remember any early lessons or being taught anything. On the very first day (I think, but perhaps I’m transplanting an event from another occasion) we were given small handheld blackboards and pieces of chalk, probably as a way of occupying us. I immediately drew a typical child’s picture of a house - four windows, door, gable, smoking chimney, winding path – but then suddenly had a guilty notion that I was supposed to wait for instructions and would be told off for sullying the blankness of the blackboard, and hastily wiped it, looking around anxiously in case anyone had witnessed my potential misdemeanour. I’m not sure that I like what this incident seems to say about my infant self.

As I say, I have no memory of anyone teaching me to read, which is galling. But I do remember sitting with Janet and John books and suddenly (or so it seems now) being able to make sense of them, and zooming through several at a sitting. When I think about junior school I find it hard to recall many incidents in which books feature, which is strange because reading became an important fact of my life quite early on. Certainly I can remember that when it came to birthdays, books were always, or nearly always, what I chose, usually big factual picture books about such subjects as birds and planes. I can also remember spending my pocket money on Armada Biggles paperbacks (this must have been when I was a little older); I loved these smaller books with their bright, exciting covers. (To an adult’s eyes these designs seem crude, the cheap paper on which the books were printed, and which went brown and brittle almost immediately, horrible, and the ‘perfect’ binding, which meant that pages often fell out, far from perfect. Puffin books, the junior imprint of Penguin, were much better produced.) I think I enjoyed the fact that for a relatively small outlay (two shillings and sixpence) you could acquire something that had the power of instantly taking you away from the routine world as you knew it to an infinitely more glamorous place. My safe and pleasant but humdrum life was no match for the aerial adventures of Biggles and his colleagues. A book, with its shiny, colourful cover and enticing text, was a magical tool, a time machine, an unlimited ticket to anywhere, anywhen. And when you’d finished reading it, you could put it on your shelf with your other books and have them preside over you and your room, which was nearly as good as reading it. It wasn’t like watching a film or television programme, which was intangible and fugitive; a book was solid, reliable, repeatable.

Almost the only time I can remember coming into conflict with my mother was over books, or more specifically about the way they were arranged. I had my books on shelves in my room, (some were probably stacked on any available flat space too), and it was important to me that they were visible. One day I came home from school (I would have been about eight or nine, perhaps) to find that she had put some of them away in a cupboard or chest, no doubt thinking that by thus providing me with more space she was helping me, and that when I got home and emerged from my bedroom (which I shared with my brother, so space was limited) I would be beaming with gratitude. Alas, I was far from grateful. I was cross, upset and tearful at this violation, as I think I saw it. She was I’m sure equally upset by my reaction. I can’t remember the upshot, but sooner or later I must have moved them back so once more their spines stood like sentinels guarding my little domain.

At about the same age I tried to write some stories of my own about a character called Super Teddy Bear, but I don’t think I actually produced anything much beyond the basic concept. I wrote things to order at school, but otherwise my literary endeavours were confined to projects that never got beyond the initial idea, a pattern, I’m sorry to say, that’s continued into adulthood.

I wish I could remember more about the books I read before the age of eleven or so. I remember Biggles (I was a passionate Captain W. E. Johns aficionado) and the Famous Five vividly, the latter red hardbacks still very common today (I don’t think my copies ever had the dust-jackets). I was slightly puzzled by the (as I now realise, fantasy fifties upper-middle class) social background of Julian, George and co, and disliked the illustrations, probably because they looked outdated and so didn’t conform to my idea of what the characters should look like. In fact, the pictures made me cross and I did my best not to look at them. Evidently I had no taste for period detail at that time. I also read the Enid Blyton Adventure series, though not so avidly, and although I tried the Secret Seven I never got on with them; maybe I thought they were too obviously rehashes of the Famous Five. I was still reading Blyton at the age of eleven, which nowadays would qualify me as positively retarded, but we were more innocent and grew up more slowly in those days (or at least I did).

Another favourite was Willard Price’s Adventure series, about two young brothers who went around the world having (and the title of the series is the clue here) adventures, usually involving animals. Many of them would undoubtedly seem uncomfortable reading now (they’re all still in print, however) as they often involve catching animals to put in zoos. The most spectacularly unacceptable to 21st century sensibilities would be Whale Adventure, the thrilling tale of the mass slaughter of these creatures. But I thought the books marvellous, and I expect they stand up as stories pretty well today. (Once, at the age of about twelve, I determined to write a novel, and sketched out the main characters who would feature, only to discover that I’d exactly reproduced Price’s formula, and gave up.)

I also read comics, principally the Beano and Dandy, but others too I now can’t name. Presumably I was quite young when I first read these, and older when I discovered a comic that consisted mostly of serialised prose stories rather than cartoons, the Rover. It was I think the only comic of its type still being published. The very first one I bought had the opening episode of a story called ‘The Yellow Jersey’, about cycling, which the wonders of the interweb tell me was published on April 19 1969, when I was eleven. I read the Rover keenly for some time, I suppose several years, and I still remember the stories about a superathlete called William Wilson, and one called ‘There Once was a Game Called Football’, set in a future in which soccer has been forgotten. Some of the stories were Second World War heroics, often featuring a Biggles knock-off called Braddock. In my later teens, having not read the comic for some years, I looked for a copy of it out of curiosity, but found it didn’t exist any more. By reading the Rover I joined the tail end of a genre dating back, I suppose, to the late Victorian period. I was an unwitting bystander at the death throes of a tradition begun by The Boy’s Own Paper and Magnet. (However, I’ve just discovered that a similar comic, the Wizard, kept going until 1978.)

I’m acutely aware that this is an embarrassingly unliterary reading list. I did however also read and collect Anthony Buckeridge’s Jennings and Richmal Crompton’s William books, probably the first books of lasting literary value that I read. I certainly loved reading about the events at Linbury Court Prep School, so much more exciting and patterned than those at St Peter’s, and about the Outlaws' always well-intentioned debacles. I also remember having some Richmal Crompton books for younger readers about a character called Jimmy – which were quite good, though not in the William class – and some by Anthony Buckeridge about a boy, Rex Milligan, at a grammar school, which I thought absolutely wonderful. W. E. Johns wrote some books about a character (a commando, I think) called Gimlet; I took harmless childish delight in the juxtaposition of the titles Gimlet Goes Again and Gimlet Mops Up. I probably read a little Malcolm Saville, and borrowed many books from the library that I've completely forgotten. But I didn’t read many ‘classics’; no Alice, Swallows and Amazons or Railway Children, though I was very moved by Black BeautyTreasure Island and Kidnapped I think I tried but found uninvolving and didn’t finish. I did read King Solomon’s Mines and Huckleberry Finn (and was thrilled by the first and charmed by the second), but that wasn’t until a bit later, probably in my early teens. 

Reading was undoubtedly a refuge. My home was loving and secure, but rather crowded. I used to take a book with me into the toilet (well, I still do that, of course) and luxuriate in the privacy and solitariness it afforded, undoubtedly taking annoyingly long over the process. And the secret, illicit thrill of reading with a torch under the bedcovers! Cocooned in the warmth and darkness, safe from discovery or disturbance – could there be a finer feeling? Later, in my teens, I would sit up late into the night reading in bed, which is nearly as good. The delicious aloneness as everyone else goes to bed and to sleep, leaving you to pursue your own adventures. The Home Counties in the sixties certainly weren't a hostile environment, so why I wanted a refuge I don't know, but books were my bulwark against the world.


In a later chapter, or chapters, I hope to write about the books I read in my teens.

You can read chapter two here.

Wednesday 13 April 2016

Ten random photos

Henry Moore, Little Hadham, Herts

First World War shells dug up from the fields of northern France

Bignor Roman villa, Sussex, the best mosaics I've yet seen in Britain

Seafire (navalised Spitfire) with folded wings

Second World war memorial window by Patrick Reyntiens, Anstey, Herts

Watts chapel, Compton, Surrey

Sheep by Duncan Grant, Lincoln cathedral

Graves in a First World War cemetery, northern France. They almost all have a cross (or occasionally another religious symbol, such as a Star of David), but the one on the left hasn't. I wonder what the story behind this is.

Valencia, Spain

Sunday 3 April 2016

St Paul's Walden church, Herts - a medieval Virgin and Georgian baroque

St Paul's Walden is hardly even a hamlet - just a handful of houses, though there's a pub (with a bar billiards table), and an aristocratic estate, St Paul's Waldenbury (which opens its landscaped gardens to the public a few times a year), and Stagenhoe (once a similar estate, now a Sue Ryder home for the disabled). These are set in gorgeous steeply-valleyed beech-wooded countryside, the foothills of the Chilterns; Hertfordshire at its most fetching.

There's also a quite big church (behind the pub), bigger than can have been needed by such a small settlement, even in earlier more devotional ages. The reason for the size of the building is that it served the people of Whitwell, a substantial village a mile or so down the road, as well as those of St Paul's Walden itself. I assume that the inhabitants of the grand houses (or earlier buildings on the same sites) didn't want to make the journey to Whitwell to worship, and expected the more numerous but less influential populace of that village to trudge from their homes instead. I wonder if the current churchgoing population of Whitwell mutter imprecations against the blue-blooded former denizens as they drive along the B651 on Sunday mornings.

Like so many Herts churches, St Paul's Walden at first glance looks substantially 15th (or early 16th) century Perpendicular. All the windows in the photo at the top of the page have mullions (vertical stone divisions) that more or less go all the way to the top of the window without deviation, (a feature absolutely typical of the style), and the arches are either fairly flat, (typical of the 15th century), or  are grouped together under completely flat hoodmoulds, (typical of the early 16th century Tudor style, as in the three windows on the right of the photo). 

But, again like so many Herts churches, subsequent and more leisurely glances prove this to be not the whole truth. A walk around the church reveals an early 14th century window at the west end of the south aisle (and more on the north of the nave), and 13th century lancets in the tower. Keep going clockwise and you'll find roundheaded windows in the chancel, the only external hint at the wonderful surprise waiting inside.

15th century font
The simple but dignified five bay arcade to the south aisle is also early 14th century; the arches lead you into the spacious, tall and light nave. There are no pews, just chairs, a feature more churches encumbered with ugly, cumbersome, impractical Victorian pine pews should emulate.

15th century screen to south chapel
The very pretty flat ceilings of the nave and south chapel were painted following the designs of the noted High Victorian architects and decorators Bodley and Garner; it's a pity that hanging heaters have been allowed to intrude (though I suppose I have to grudgingly accept that congregations have to be kept warm somehow).

Accompanying the heaters, but beating them hands down in visual appeal, are three superb brass chandeliers, probably 18th century; some of the candle-holders are at pleasing variance from the vertical. The chandelier in front of the chancel screen is topped by a bad-tempered bird (a dove,  representing the Holy Spirit?).

In one of the south aisle windows is this tender early 14th century depiction of the Virgin and Child. Their faces are very worn, but enough survives to give the impression that they're looking at each other fondly, and the colours of their robes still glow. Mary is crowned as the Queen of Heaven and holds a flowering branch in her right hand; this is probably a reference to the Tree of Jesse, a representation of the ancestry of Christ. (I've written about the Tree of Jesse in another Hertfordshire church here.) 

A bird perches on or hovers by her left arm; this is probably symbolic of the soul and its resurrection, or of the Holy Spirit. Alternatively, the bird could be intended to represent a goldfinch, which according to legend pecked  a thorn from Christ's brow on the road to Calvary and was splashed with a drop of his blood; goldfinches often feature in pictures of the Virgin and Child as a means of reminding the viewer of Jesus's eventual fate.* To modern eyes, however, it's simply a charming detail.

Until a decade or two ago this stained glass was under the tower, but was moved, presumably so more people would see it. This was undoubtedly a Good Thing. But there was something numinous about venturing into the relative dark of the tower room, risking banging your head on the organ in the process, to witness it in situ**, its deep browns and reds glowing richly in the afternoon sun. In its current position the colours are not as effective; the clear glass that's been added around the sides to make it fit a bigger window doesn't help. I'm just being a miserable malcontent. Ignore me.

This glass would be the knock-out attraction of many churches, but St Paul's Walden has something to top it: the chancel screen and chancel, of 1727 and 1762. (Recently the altar has been moved from the east wall to the east of the nave, spoiling the view of the screen quite badly.) An inscription on the back of the screen proclaims: 'THIS Chancel was first Repair'd and Beautifi'd by EDWARD GILBERT  ESQR of the Bury in the Year of our Lord 1727'. (Relish the 18th century use of capitals and apostrophes.) The decoration of the screen is immensely rich (indeed, almost too rich for its size), as if the unknown designer*** couldn't resist using every device and motif he knew. Front and back are equally ornamented.

There are four fluted slim Corinthian columns, each with its own diminutive entablature, from which spring arches. Above these, on the left and right, scrolls morph into pairs of putti which support elaborate urns; these features are flanked by pairs of slightly smaller urns. The central, wider arch is topped by ogees (i.e. S-shaped curves) and three more urns. Everything is exuberantly carved and garnished with fancy finials. 

The reredos on the east wall of the chancel is similar to the screen, though with satisfying variations; the columns have become square pilasters, and the central arch has lost the ogee and gained a pair of putti, while the putti on left and right support segmental pediments. Below the window is a Lamb and Flag (representing Christ), and above a book surrounded by fruit and palm leaves. The book is inscribed (in Greek) 'The New Testament' and surmounted by a flaming heart (a surprisingly Catholic feature at this date).

Until 1946 the space now occupied by the window was simply a niche; in that year it was opened up and filled with stained glass, a Crucifixion by Hugh Easton. 

This vision of Christ as Superman, Hollywood-handsome, ready to zoom up into the sky with his cape billowing behind him (though at least he's wearing his underpants inside his clothes),  doesn't appeal to me at all. It's very similar to Easton's 1949 west window of St Dunstan's, Stepney, including the strange two-dimensional green marble cross. (See here.) At least the Stepney window has a bleak (almost post-apocalyptic) cityscape at the bottom, giving it an interest the St Paul's Walden version lacks.

I assume that the reredos and screen date from 1727, while the stucco decoration on the walls of the chancel dates from Gilbert's death; an unobtrusive inscription on an urn reads 'EG ob. 1762'. Two putti frolic around it, not looking at all grief-stricken; the one on the right has traditional feathered wings, but those of the one on the left look like a butterfly's. 

On the north wall Gilbert's coat of arms is displayed, featuring, rather bizarrely, a single armoured leg. (The same motif appears on some ledgerstones.) The decoration of the barrel-vaulted ceiling is extremely attractive (though once again heaters spoil the effect); the highly successful green, cream and white colour scheme is by Raymond Erith from as recently as 1972. 

The delightful wrought iron gate to the chancel is presumably contemporary with the screen. The pulpit, however, is Edwardian, and clearly designed to harmonise with the screen. The chaste chancel stalls, which take their inspiration from late Georgian furniture, are c1945. Another ledgerstone, continuing the tradition and finely lettered, records that they were erected in memory of Dorothy Dewar and her son John, a pilot in the Second World War, 'who, after fighting thro' the Battle of Britain, was lost on patrol 30th March 1941.' 

I've probably visited St Paul's Walden church more than any other in Hertfordshire or anywhere else; it's always open, is set in beautiful bosky countryside with a circular walk passing two pubs and a tea shop, and is endlessly rewarding, with elegant contributions from the 14th, 15th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. It's one of my favourites.

* Or possibly the bird is pecking at Christ's hand and feeding on his blood, a symbol of the Eucharist.

** I assume that the glass was made for the tower window and has always been in the church. However, the Victoria County History (1908) states categorically that 'there are no remains of old glazing'. Improbable as it seems, the authors of this magisterial book must have overlooked it. Is it possible that, very fortunately, the same happened when the iconoclasts arrived? There's no trace of any other medieval glass in the church, and it seems unlikely that only one window (and that one hidden away in the tower) was adorned with stained glass, so the others have either been completely lost through accidental damage (possible, but wouldn't some fragments survive?), or deliberately smashed. This would most likely have happened during the reign of Edward VI (1547-53), or possibly during Elizabeth's reign, or during the Civil War and Commonwealth in the mid 17th century. The VCH suggests that the ground floor of the tower was once used as a living room; can we imagine that the Puritan vandals missed the Virgin and Child because they were shut away in what was effectively someone's home?

*** James Paine (1717-89), who probably worked at the Bury, has been plausibly suggested as the designer of the stucco decoration of 1762, but he can hardly be responsible for the screen of 1727. The Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (1911)**** states that the chancel 'is of Renaissance character, and is said to have been designed by Wren.' I include this attribution only as an example of the rustic optimism of an age before the study of art history became established. 

**** The Royal Commission on Historical Monuments was founded in 1908 and was intended to make county-by-county inventories of all England's notable buildings (built before 1700, though later volumes gradually extended this date to 1850). Hertfordshire was the very first county to be tackled, and it took only three years for the book to appear. Later volumes were very much slower to be published, and when the last one emerged in 1977 still only about a quarter of the country had been covered. The RCHM still exists in some form, as part of Historic England (formerly English Heritage).