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. However, IF solved, the entry will be returned to the main Unknown's page.

All of the churches on this page have been unsolved since 2010, so present particular challenges. If you do succeed in identifying any of them, please let me know!

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. Simon Davies has tentatively suggested St. Andrew at Steyning, West Sussex, painted from across the River Adur. He admits that the artist has taken some minor liberties, but I think the suggestion has merit. Here's a modern photo (unfortunately not from the same angle). Tony Preston visited recently, and has sent in this photo which is a little nearer to the angle of the painting. He advises that the painting is unlikely to be the view from the River Adur, as it is too distant (at least, it is today), but that there was a smaller river closer to the church, as shown on a map of 1897. Big enough to warrant bridges, today nothing remains of it other than an overgrown ditch. Overall, his conclusion is that the painting is still possibly Steyning, but the case has yet to be proved. 

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..........". 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.

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. 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. In a fine piece of detective work, Tony Preston has also been looking into this church. He points out that the website included earlier in this entry also has an image of a page from a magazine, wherein the painting is shown, with the title Old Bognor Street, rather than Old Street, Bognor, supporting my speculation that Old Street as such doesn't exist. It also includes a hand-written date of 1956 for the painting. He has sent a link (here) to a website describing the church of St. John the Baptist, built in 1821, with a tower added circa 1834. The church itself was demolished 1891, but the tower was left standing until 1961 (i.e. after the painting was made). This link shows two postcards (scroll down) of Waterloo Gardens, both showing the church in the background, a good match for the painting. An old map shows St. John the Baptist's tower standing on Market Street, and comparing the painting with the map, I suspect that the view is from what was then Chapel Street, to the north of Market Street. Note that Chapel Street has since been re-routed from its original course. [Peter - the email address I have for you is invalid, so I hope you see this].

The following are all from John Bowdler's Collection - 3 an interior, and 10 is perhaps the interior of a private chapel.

This one 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. Photo 1. 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. Photo 4.
Simon Davies suggested the Savoy Chapel in central London. In more recent years, he explains, the churchyard has had its gravestones removed and been landscaped.
However, upon enquiring with the appropriate archive, Simon has been told that there were no weddings with those names and on those dates at the Savoy Chapel.
Perhaps you can help??

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.

A drawing of a church from 1882. Believed to be in the Stamford area, can you give Martin Dean an identification?

From Greg Mishevski, the still "sec002" here is from the film Secret Ceremony (1968). An identified church from the same film is on still "sec007/a/b" here, and is St. Mary Magdalene in Paddington, but doesn't appear to be the same church. Sec002 also has some resemblance to Victorian breweries or other industrial buildings, so it may just be a background building rather than a church.
Certainly a church is still "sta002" here, from the film Staircase (1969). Greg thinks it could possibly be in the Wimbledon area. Can you identify either location?

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?




06 March 2024

© Steve Bulman

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