Tregolwyn Book Reviews

The Old Parish Churches of Gwent, Glamorgan and Gower

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by Mike Salter

It is deeply ironic that the publishing company which produces Mike Salter's fantastic series of books on castles and churches should be named Folly Publications. It may, once upon a time, have begun as a folly, but over a period it has blossomed into a set of works that every self-respecting person with an interest in local history is sure to have on his or her shelves.

The Old Parish Churches of Gwent, Glamorgan and Gower is fairly typical of the series, aiming to act as a gazetteer or quick-reference guide rather than an encyclopaedic document. It sticks to its brief by listing only "old" churches, omitting Victorian gems such as St Catharine's in Baglan, but including the ruined medieval building, St Baglan, that stands alongside. The author himself defines "old" as meaning "before the Industrial Revolution" which brought with it a rise in population and an accompanying urgent need for additional places of worship, not always as interesting to look at as those that preceded them.



If the series has a weakness, it is the illustrations -- not the floor plans, which are always useful, but the black and white photographs of some of the entries. Many are of fuzzy quality, and I was disappointed that the frontispiece, of St Michael's Church, Colwinston, had been taken before the millennium restoration that made such a dramatic difference to the building's appearance. (Look at the Tregolwyn home page if you want to see what I mean.)

Having said that, these are cheap, handy guides to the historic buildings of distinct geographical areas, and moreover are a tribute to Mike Salter's enthusiasm and tireless research. So desperate is he to give us value for money that he even prints on the inside of the back cover, and from this we see that the Folly Publications catalogue now includes guides to the castles and parish churches of most of England, Wales and Scotland. They include such useful additional information as map references and glossaries. I recommend that all those with an interest in historic buildings, if not already familiar with the series, should track them down as soon as possible and buy as many as they can afford. You won't find a better bargain.



ISBN 1 871731 60 7
Published by Folly Publications, 2002. (2nd ed.)
112pp, paperback
Retail price 5.95

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Review by Deborah Fisher