'It had long bothered my friend Mr. John Piper and me that there was no selective list of English parish churches, judging the buildings by their atmosphere and aesthetic merit. For instance, when motoring through a district we had not hitherto explored, we would see a church on some nearby hill or in a valley and wonder whether it was worth diverting our journey to go and see it.'
To be honest, if Betjie and Piper took the Collins Guide around with them, they wouldn't find it very useful. Each county is written by a different 'authority', and some of the entries are almost gnomic. Consider the Reverend B. F. L. Charke's notes on All Saints, Benhilton in Surrey: 'S. S. Teulon, 1864-5. Keeping very quiet.'
Meanwhile, in Cambridgeshire, Peter Eden tells us that Great St Mary's in Cambridge is 'worth a visit' and the entries for Guilden Morden and Haslingfield read 'Screen' and 'Tower' respectively. Useful stuff. That having been said, in some senses it's more exciting coming across a church unprepared by guidebooks (caveat lector!) as discovering something wonderful and unexpected is great fun.
Anyhow, I digress. Eden uses an asterisk to denote a 'particularly attractive' church. These are the ones he selects:
- Borough Green
- Bottisham ('Perhaps the best in the county')
- Cambridge St Michael's
- Westley Waterless
- Whittlesey ('Has the best tower and spire in the county')
- Wisbech SS Peter & Paul