Churches of Britain and Ireland
Each entry below has a photo or illustration of a church. In most cases there are no (or inadequate) indications of where the church is, and unless you know the church personally, cunning detective work will be required to discover its identity. That can involve the building stone - is it knapped flint, sandstone or granite? Architectural styles can also help narrow the field, and for exterior views, the surroundings may also offer clues. And for postcards, the location of the publisher may be helpful. Sometimes of course, the mystery remains just that - some of the entries below have been unsolved for several years, and perhaps may never be solved.
If you enjoy the challenge of
identifying churches, try
here as well.
A photograph of a church, perhaps taken in Victoria's reign, possibly either in Flintshire (maybe near Mold or Buckley), or Cumberland (perhaps in the Maryport/Dovenby/Little Broughton area). © David Knowles.
Paul Way is seeking help with the location of a church in a painting. It was handed down by a relative who lived in the Hove area, but of course it may not be from that area. The artist is unknown, but it probably dates from around 1850. Close-up.
Roger Hopkins found a box of Victorian negatives, and the final Unknown - an interior view, remains unidentified thus far. Not yet a solution, but Phil Draper has this to say - "I keep returning to this church at Langton Green which has been enlarged several times since it was built in 1863. It now has aisles, but the chancel arch and pulpit match (especially if the picture is reversed) and the distinctive east window could have been reset if the chancel was lengthened. However enough doesn't match as well.......... http://www.kentchurches.info/church.asp?p=Langton+Green". Do you have an old photo or illustration of this church which could prove or disprove Phil's suspicions? Judy Flynn's Collection has provided evidence in the form of an old postcard, undoubtedly of Langton Green, and although there are many similarities, the differences seem to rule it out as the location of the unknown postcard - see for example the profile of the aisle arches. The postcard was posted in 1913, so the photo pre-dates this.
A Sussex church, probably in the Brighton area. Can you advise Stefan Bremner-Morris where it is? Now solved. Brian Curtis has identified it as the Town Hall at Launceston in Cornwall. Stefan - the email address I have for you is no longer valid.
Peter Boyce would like to learn where this painting was produced. It's by R. O. Dunlop R.A. whose floruit was in the 1950's and 1960's. Painted in a rather impressionistic style, it won't be easy to place, but he lived near Chichester, and painted widely in Sussex and further afield in southern England. Colin Waters has identified the painting on this website, and it is called "Old Street, Bognor". Unfortunately, there isn't a thoroughfare called Old Street in Bognor, so this is just a generic old street, and this means of course that the actual church remains unidentified. [Peter - the email address I have for you is invalid, so I hope you see this].
Brad and Steph MacDonald inherited these large framed photos (1, 2) from a relative who lived in North Cornwall. They believe they are over 100 years old. Can you tell them where the church is located?
was always going to be very
difficult, but worth the effort! Simon Aldworth had asked for help in
identifying the church in some wedding photos. Although they are in a wedding
album, in the family's possession, he doesn't know the people involved, who are
named as "Russie and Jack", and who seem to have been married April 29th, 1933.
The firm of photographers is still in existence, but they have had no luck in
finding out any details either. The church is not shown clearly, but the windows
may be identifiable to someone who knows the church well.
Photo2. The next two show groups walking up the churchyard path, and
standing against what appears to be the churchyard railings. The buildings
opposite suggest a large town, which might tie in with the photographer who was
London-based. Photo 3.
Peter Ord from British Columbia has asked for help in identifying the location where a family wedding photograph was taken. Peter says that his wife's family were from the Midlands. My guess would be that the photo was taken further east, as the walls appear to be of flintwork. In any event, the armorials around the door are distinctive, and should help.
David Jones is trying to identify a Primitive Methodist Chapel. Above the door is a date, perhaps 1856.
A drawing of a church from 1882. Believed to be in the Stamford area, can you give Martin Dean an identification?
An usual query this time - Greg
Mishevski is interested in the location for a scene in the film "Girl in the
Headlines" (1963), which shows a cemetery chapel. He's provided two stills -
Jens Petter Kvande in Sweden has a painting dated 1880, and attributed to James Hamilton, R.S.A. This is probably James Whitelaw Hamilton, R.S.A., who lived in Helensburgh. The painting reminds me of the Romney Marshes. Although it doesn't show the church in any detail, it is evidently a large church, and there may be another smaller one to the right. Can you identify the location? Simon Davies has made a strong case for it being the Abbaye de Cerisy la Foret in Normandy, France. Wikipedia entry here. Dave Godden suggests that the main church is St. Mary in Rye, with the smaller church to the right possibly the Church of the Holy Spirit at Rye Harbour. However, I've also received counter-arguments from Simon Davies, who says (among other things) that the west tower of Rye church conflicts with the central tower in the painting, and also that Rye is at the bottom of hill, not evident in the painting. What do you think?
Another postcard from Judy Flynn's collection. St. Alban at Sunningdale is possibly the demolished one mentioned here (just beneath the church photo), but positive proof would be welcome. The postcard was posted in 1905.
We've had some success identifying churches used in films - here's another. Ian Stapleton has sent in two frames (1, 2) from Haunters of the Deep (1984). It was filmed mostly in Cornwall, with village scenes in Portloe, but the church isn't the one in Portloe (shown here on Geograph). Greg Mishevski has suggested Holy Trinity, Botleys and Lyne, Surrey. There is certainly nothing that contradicts this in the following photographs on Geograph (1, 2), and the Google Earth view from the road (search for botleys holy trinity) is supportive, even as far as the types and positions of trees. However, the film still was evidently taken from the rear of the church, and myself and others have been unable to find a photo on-line taken from that direction. If you can find a photo, or even better, visit the church and take one - definitive proof would be excellent. Dave Godden recommends Bing birds-eye view for looking at the church.
Two more from Judy Flynn. Written on the back of the
first is "Emley, near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire", but it isn't the parish church, so what is it? Greg Mishevski has tentatively suggested the demolished Emley Bethel Wesleyan Reform Union Church on Upper Lane, which is shown on old maps. Built 1854, closed 1995
and demolished 1997, these two links (1,
2) refer to it, but don't include photos. Can you confirm or refute the
suggestion? Both Janet Gimber and Brian Curtis have managed to find photos which
imply that it isn't the Bethel Chapel. See the following -
(click "Go to resource"). David Regan doubts that the church is at Emley at all, as he knows the area; he also points out that the houses at the
extreme left appear to be of three stories, and there has never been anything like this in Emley - perhaps it's time to cast the net wider!
John Bowdler is looking for locations for a font. It is rather plain, and will probably be difficult.
Another interior from Judy Flynn. Hand-written on the back is "Thornton Heath", and the postcard was also published there. Judy has found one church in Thornton Heath with an apse (St. Paul), but says it looks very different. Is this the right church, subsequently altered, or is it a different one?
Another two fonts from John Bowdler. The first is clearly labelled as "The Old Celtic Font, Dryburgh Abbey", but John has searched for modern photos showing the font in situ, without success. So has the font been moved somewhere else? The second offers no clues.Jonathan Gould has found an old photo of a group of young men, with the caption "Wesleyan Methodist Bible Class, Pontrhydu, 1888". The mystery is that neither he nor I can find any mention of a Pontrhydu on the internet. The photographer was Edwin Lott, of Nolton Studio, Bridgend, so that may serve as a clue. Can you advise where this church is or was?
This one has generated a lot of discussion, which I will distil as follows - Simon Davies has offered Babell Welsh Wesleyan Methodist Chapel on Llan Road, LLangynwyd, where the main population centre is Pont Rhyd-y-cyff. He suggests that a local shortening of this to Pontrhydu would be entirely consistent with linguistic habits in Welsh.
Mike Berrell has suggested Pont Rhyd-Ddu in Gwynedd, where a place of worship is shown here on Streetmap, though not on the OS map. Chris Willis has advised that this is Rhyd-Ddu Methodist Chapel which shows on the 1889 OS map as Methodist Chapel (Calvinistic), and that it does show on the current internet OS map, but only the ZoomMap version (where it is indicated by PW), but not on the Leisure map. Unfortunately, I cant see enough on GoogleEarth to decide whether the mystery photo is from here.
Janet Gimber has discovered that Simon's Babell Chapel was Calvinistic Methodist at least until 1899, which would usually eliminate it from speculation. However, she has also found this reference and quotes from it as follows (I've corrected numerous obvious spelling errors produced by the automated scanning of the source) - the short section in bold is key -
"The Wesleyans. The first start in connection with this denomination of Christians in the Parish was in a cottage in McGregor Row, in the year 1839. Services were held in this cottage for about two years, and conducted by local preachers, and occasionally by an ordained minister from Cardiff, in which circuit Maesteg was at that period. When the number of members reached ten, an effort was made to acquire a place for worship; and at a circuit meeting held at Llantwit, the matter was considered, but disallowed, as being contrary to the rules of the Wesleyan Conference. Subsequently, Bridgend and Cowbridge, with the surrounding villages, were constituted into a separate circuit, apart from that of Cardiff, and the little church at Maesteg was attended to by the ministers residing at Bridgend and Cowbridge, and the services held at the old Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Chapel, now the residence of the Rev. John Jones. For some reason the services were again discontinued in the Welsh Chapel, and the small band of worshippers held their meetings for some time at the old English Baptist Chapel, Galltcwm Row; in Shoemaker Row; in the Swan Club-room; and in the Old Works Infant Schoolroom. After these years of wandering, in the year 1857, the friends resolved upon building a small chapel. The plans and scheme were approved of at a quarterly meeting of the circuit at Bridgend, the Rev. Thomas Osborne (afterwards I. Osborne) presiding."
So Babell remains a possibility. Janet also offers the one-time Independent Welsh Chapel (later named as Bethesda) in LLangynwyd. Currently for sale, the Estate Agents description and a photo are here. A screen capture from Streetview shows a wall which bears some resemblance to that in the mystery photo.
Colin Waters suggests Pontrhydyrun, which has a Baptist church, and again, the boundary wall is similar. Compare again with a screen capture from GoogleEarth. It would be useful to learn some history of this building to confirm or refute the suggestion.
See also the Wesleyan Methodist entry for Maesteg, which may be relevant.
Another from Brian Curtis's collection - this is of a church apparently standing in isolation at the end of a track.
Leslie is trying to identify a church with family associations. The family lived near Duckington in Cheshire from about 1873-82, and in Eccleshall, Staffordshire until about 1890. A family baptism took place in Holy Trinity at Bickerton in Cheshire, and although the present church there bears some resemblance to the mystery church, there are sufficient differences to make the identification uncertain. However, the listed building entry (Grade II) does mention some changes to the building which make further consideration useful. Can you supply an old image of the church?
Henry Tribe is trying to place a church in an old watercolour. The combination of apse and prominent tombs should (if this is a realistic painting) make identification easier than some. Can you oblige him?
An old oil painting next, with an admittedly partial view of a church. In Marilyn Coetzee's family for over a century, it is presumed to have a link with one of her ancestors, who lived at Gringley-on-the-Hill (Notts.), Lincoln, Ashbourne (Derbyshire), Snelston (near Ashbourne), and Southwark (now Greater London). Another view.
Another old postcard of a church interior, from Judy Flynn's collection. The only clue is the text on the front of the card - "C. A. C. Stoke". Brian Curtis has tentatively suggested that C. A. C. may stand for Catholic Apostolic Church, and his researches have shown that there were two in the Fenton area of Stoke. The first was built in 1879 on the corner of Bowstead Street and Church Street. This was replaced by a new church in 1896 on the corner Whieldon Road and City Road. The first church was later used as a Gospel Hall. From old map evidence, both were still extant in 1937, but the whole area was redeveloped at some point, and neither building remains. Neither he or I have been able to find any photos of either church (interior or exterior), so the suggestion must remain unproved for the moment.
A few postcards from Brian Curtis now. The first is of an interior, posted in 1967 in Chiswick. Hand-written on the back is "Trinity 1967", not in the same hand as that of the person who sent it. As an afterthought, Brian has suggested that it might be a school chapel, on the basis that Trinity might refer to Trinity Term.
Alistair Moffatt has an old photo of a church, probably in England, which he suspects probably dates from 1890-1910.
Alan Regin has asked for help in identifying two, or possibly three churches. Taken by Charles Cole, a bell-ringer, who died in the 1940's. There are nearly three hundred church images, but only these remain unidentified, which Alan believes were taken circa 1912. The identified churches have a wide geographical scatter, but mostly from the southern half of England. What is possibly one church is shown on two photos - 1, 2, though neither shows the building very well. It reminds me of churches in Northamptonshire or Oxfordshire. The other is shown very well, and seems to have flint walls, so S.E. England perhaps?
Recently Solved (Older solved Unknown's have been archived here).
Avebury, Wiltshire, St. James. Christopher Skottowe has an old album containing (among other things) a photo of a church. The photo dates from circa 1893. Phil Draper has identified it as being of St. James in Avebury Wiltshire.
Barton upon Irwell (now Salford), St. Catherine. This is another postcard (interior) from Judy Flynn. The only clue was that written on the back is "Barton, Lancs." There are at least 2 Barton's in Lancashire. Although Brian Curtis had suggested Barton-on-Irwell, St. Catherine, he (and I) were unable to find an image to confirm the suggestion. He listed a number of points, cumulatively suggestive, including architectural appearance (correct for the known date of St. Catherine - 1860's), and similarity of the lancet windows as shown here. Some more photos of St. Catherine are shown here (search for "Barton"), but they aren't helpful. Final confirmation came from Phil Draper, who found a scan of a postcard for sale on E-Bay showing the interior of St. Catherine, Barton-on-Irwell, confirming the identification of Judy's postcard. The E-Bay scan has a digital watermark, so I'm unable to reproduce it here.
Chilvers Coton, Warwickshire, All Saints. One of Brian Curtis's postcards, showing a fire damaged or bombed church, and has been identified by John R. Parker, who advises that the church was rebuilt by German POW's in the 1940's.
Coldridge, Devon, St. Matthew. Curiously, I received scans of two different postcards of an interior (1, 2), from Judy Flynn and Brian Curtis, within days of each other. I suspected immediately that they were of the same church, but had no idea of where it might be. One postcard had the word "Coleridge" printed on it, and it seems that this was the old spelling for what is now Coldridge. Greg Mishevski and Simon Edwards obliged with the identification, and confirmation that they were indeed of the same church, and provided the following links - link1, link2, link3. There are some older references to the church dedication being St. Mary (Simon refers to a 1919 Bligh Bond book). The church is Grade I listed.
Fritton (near Lowestoft), Norfolk, St. Edmund. A highly decorated font (photo from John Bowdler's Collection), which I took to be on a Norman column (which is similar in design to columns in Durham's Norman Cathedral) was identified by Simon Davies, who advises that it is in fact Victorian. Link1. Link2.
Hastings, East Sussex, St. Matthew at Silverhill. An old postcard from Judy Flynn's Collection, this view of St. Matthew's Church offered no clues to its location, other than that it was published by The London View Co. It is fairy distinctive, with an unfinished (or demolished) porch/tower, and a small lead(?) spire. Identified by Janet Gimber and Simon Davies. Note that the location of this church can be confusing - for example, Wikipedia has it at Silverhill, Hastings (link), but the church website says it is at St. Leonards-on-Sea (link).
High Hesket, Cumbria. One of Brian Curtis' postcards, this was identified by John R. Parker.
Hughenden, Buckinghamshire, St. Michael and All Angels. Christopher Bray is writing a biography of the film director Anthony Mann, and wanted to identify the location of a church which was featured in the film A Dandy in Aspic, some stills of which are to be found here. Brian Curtis and Simon Davies both identified it.
Loders, Dorset, St. Mary Magdalene. Cris Tyler was trying to identify a church for a friend, which was thought might possibly in the Leeds area). Phil Draper made the identification. Link. Grade I listed.
Lowestoft, All Saints and St. Margaret at Pakefield. Long in the Unknown section, this old family photograph from Lyn Thomson's Collection was identified by Janet Gimber. Compare with here. Link1. Link2.
Market Lavington, Wiltshire, St. Mary of the Assumption (interior). A postcard from Ray Harrington-Vail's Collection, this one remained unsolved for several years. My appreciation to Phil Draper for identifying it, and supplying this link to one of his own photos as proof. Link. Grade I listed - link.
Milton, Portsmouth, the long-demolished St. James (1841). Seen here in a postcard from Judy Flynn's Collection, it was identified by Brian Curtis and Simon Davies. Proof of its identity can be seen in the Google Earth view of the present church, by comparing the pillars and wall with those in the postcard. It was demolished to make way for the present day church, consecrated in 1913.
Muckross, Holy Spirit. An Irish church, from Chris Scales' collection - an old family holiday photo from a 1970 holiday. Tony Preston identified this mystery church.
Rotherfield, East Sussex, St. Denys. One of Judy Flynn's old postcards, it was posted from Tunbridge Wells to Boscombe in 1905, and written on the back is "This photo was taken the day after our harvest thanksgiving." Interiors are always difficult to identify, so my thanks to Simon Davies for identifying this, and supplying the following confirmatory link.
St. Bees Priory, Cumbria. This Victorian silver box belonging to Peter Cameron has a church on the lid. Note the tower design. Can you name it? After languishing for years without any suggestions at all, Rob Robinson has proposed St. Bees Priory in Cumbria (properly the Priory church of St. Mary & St. Bega), and offered the following link in support - link. I think the suggestion is a good one. Peter has since drawn my attention to this page, and in particular the right-hand illustration towards the top, which may well be the source used for making the silver box.
Thurning, Northants, St. James, on an old postcard from Reg Dossell's Collection. Another one of long-standing solved by Phil Draper, who supplied these confirmatory links - link1, link2, and I've also found the following, link3.
Waltham Abbey, Essex. Christopher Skottowe has an old album containing (among other things) a sketch of a churches. Though there's no indication of the date of the sketch, it is probably from late Victorian times. Simon Davies has identified it as Waltham Abbey in Essex, before Victorian alterations increased the height of the tower.
Whittlesey, Cambs. Judy Flynn has an old postcard of a church interior, and labelled as "St. Mary, W'sea". It was bought understanding that it was in Yorkshire, but have been unable to find a likely candidate. Thanks to Phil Draper and Simon Davies for the identification.
Older solved Unknown's have been archived here.
11 March 2015
© Steve Bulman