- Look at the church in the context of its surroundings. Does it fit, or seem at odds with the buildings around it?
- Ask yourself what impression the church is trying to make. Is it flashy or dull? Impressive or mean? Do all the parts make the same impression, or are some different from others? What might this tell you about the people who built it?
- Before you go inside, have a look around the outside. Keep an eye out for things that ‘don’t seem quite right’, like blocked windows, changes in material (eg brick vs. stone), or places where there are awkward joints between parts of the building.
- When you go inside, look around slowly. Don’t rush to conclusions. Look at each part of the church in turn. If it doesn’t ‘fit’, what might this be telling you?
- If you can’t work something out, don’t ignore it - make a note of it. This may be just the clue you are looking for later on.
- Try and construct a logical sequence of events for the building of the church. Doors must have led somewhere, windows must have been in outside walls. And above all, make sure your imagined building always has all four walls.
- Pay attention to the tombs and other memorials. Parish churches were built by the people who worshipped, and were buried, there. It helps to know who they were.
- Become familiar with the different periods and styles of architecture, as this will help you date individual features within a building.
About the author
Carol Davidson Cragoe is Assistant Architectural Editor of the Victoria County History.