It would take many visits and perhaps a lifetime to be able to assemble a similar collection of 2,000 church guides that were donated by the Heraldry Society (see our previous post) to the RIBA’s collections in the British Architectural Library.
On the online catalogue, RIBA staff member Jeremy Crumplin has just completed the listing of these church guides by county. The contents of this special collection, mostly from Great Britain and dating predominantly from the 20th century, vary from glossy booklets to more humble photocopied leaflets. Each guide encapsulates the desire of an individual church or parish to communicate the history and activities of their building and community to their own congregations or the wider public. Available to any visitor to the Library, this collection contains a wealth of information on hundreds of historic churches from St Winifred in rural Branscombe in Devon to St Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London, buildings which represent over a millennium of religious architecture in Great Britain.
The value of these guides is not just what information they contain by themselves; it is when they are combined with the other four million items in the RIBA’s collections that their research potential is fully realised. A visit to the top floor of the RIBA’s headquarters at 66 Portland Place includes views of the spire of All Saints Margaret Street, a church designed by Royal Gold Medal-winner William Butterfield and completed in 1859. The RIBA holds original journal articles about this Gothic Revival structure dating from its construction and to recent restorations, photographs of the completed building from the 19th and 20th century and drawings relating to the design of a proposed school for the church. And now, also available is a church guide combining information about the architecture of the building with verses from the Bible.
See more images of All Saints Margaret Street via RIBApix.
The guides are held in storage and collected on request for visitors to Library’s Reading Room at 66 Portland Place by staff at set times during the week. The Library can be contacted beforehand so that items are ready for any visit. Use the online catalogue to search the collections.