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

Friday, 7 August 2020

Five years of Icknield Indagations

It's five years since I published my first Icknield Indagations blog post. With impeccable timing, a few days ago the page views passed 50,000; of course, this doesn't mean that it's been read that often - I assume that a 'view' means just that. Probably most views don't become actual 'reads' except maybe the first sentence or two. But even if only, say, a quarter of those views are people reading something I've written, I think that's not at all bad for a blog with a title that could have been specifically designed to be uninformative and off-putting, and the subject matter of which is far from likely to get numerous virtual bums on seats.

My initial idea for the blog was to write mostly about one or two features of Hertfordshire churches in each post; I didn't intend to write exhaustive accounts of every aspect of the buildings. I followed this self-imposed stricture in my first post (Barkway); however, by the time I got around to writing about my second church (South Mimms) I felt that it would do it a disservice to ignore nearly everything about it and wrote a full description of everything that interested me. I've carried on in this vein since, and so far I've covered forty Herts churches (though at least three of those need rewriting and expanding).

I've also written about other subjects, usually of a bookish or historical nature, and about churches other than in Herts. Stained glass has been a topic I've returned to repeatedly. It's these other subjects that get the most page views (and I assume the most readers); not one of my articles about Hertfordshire churches appears in my top ten (and only two about churches elsewhere). These are my most viewed posts:

  1. The Lucas Hospital (actually almshouses), Wokingham, Berks. Why this is so popular I have no idea.
  2. T H White's 'The Sword in the Stone'. Fantasy literature is very popular, so it's not so surprising that this post gets a lot of views. (Though personally I don't much like the genre.)
  3. The Grimes Graves Venus. A prehistoric carving which is - spoiler alert - probably a fake. There's surprisingly little information on the web about this, so if anyone searches for it this post is likely to come up.
  4. The Arden Shakespeares and the Brotherhood of Ruralists. I suppose this is likely to be seen by those interested in both topics.
  5. A sexual carving in Felmersham church, Beds. My 'best selling' church-related article. I seem to have been the first person to have written extensively about this corbel. Sex is always going to sell, though, isn't it?
  6. Kenny Wheeler's 'Sweet Time Suite'. I've not written much about jazz, one of my main interests. I'm glad that this post about a masterpiece gets attention.
  7. Corbels and Pre-Raphaelite glass in Middleton Cheney church, Northants. The Pre-Raphaelites of course have a big following. Again, there doesn't seem to be anything significant previously written about the Cyclops corbel, a really odd thing to find in a medieval church.
  8. Gerald Finzi, Laurence Whistler, Reynolds Stone, John Arlott. Four clickworthy names for the price of one.
  9. A Victorian eccentric in Letchworth, Herts. Once more, this is the best source on the web for information about its topic, the Rev Alington. I especially enjoyed writing this.
  10. Eric Forbes-Robertson. An obscure but interesting late 19th/early 20th century painter and actor.
I intend to continue to write posts, mostly because it's good to have to try to explain why I like (or, occasionally, dislike) something, but of course it's gratifying to know (or assume) that what I write is at least occasionally read. In particular I'm going to try to be more disciplined about delineating Herts churches, which I regard as the main raison d'etre of this blog. I think there are probably a hundred or so that deserve a detailed post, as well as others that can be covered in a paragraph or two, and so far I'm less than half way there. I'll keep going.


  1. If it's any consolation, or even if it's not, I found and followed your blog entirely due to the church posts - not saying I don't read your other posts but the church entries are why I'm here!

    As an incidental thought: I've visited 239 Herts churches [I think I've covered all the "old" to Victorian builds in the county including redundant/ruined buildings] and of those 239 you'll find, in normal times i.e. pre-Covid, 59% accessible.

  2. Thanks for your comment. Actually, it is a consolation! It's nice to know that someone who knows what they're talking about thinks that my posts are worth reading.

    I think I've visited (at least externally) all the substantially medieval Herts churches, and quite a few of the Victorian. Almost none of the 20th century ones, though. When you say that 59% of them are normally accessible, do you mean unlocked, or do you include those that are locked but display the address of a keyholder? (Not that many do nowadays - it used to be more common a few decades ago, I think.)

    Best wishes