Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Scientist creates record of churches

A MAN from Goring has created a detailed record of more than 3,000 English churches.

Peter Wardle’s database, which can be viewed online free of charge, contains scores of photographs for each church with views of the interiors and close-ups of features such as memorials and stained glass windows.

There is also a record of the layout, the date the church was built and the materials it was made from.

Dr Wardle, a retired archaeologist who has lived in the village for almost three decades, began compiling his data while working on a project at a Suffolk church about 14 years ago.

A chat with a surveyor inspired him to visit other churches to document their distinguishing features and the project grew from there.

He has visited almost every church within a 90-minute drive of Goring, including all those in the Henley area, and often visits those further afield with his wife Caroline.

Most are in the South or the Midlands but he has been to some further north.

The work had to go on hold during the coronavirus lockdowns but he hopes to resume when the restrictions are lifted.

Dr Wardle, 64, who was heritage consultant on the Olympic Park project in London in 2012, says the database has become a reference tool for planning consultants.

Others have offered to add to it but he wants to continue by himself as he enjoys visiting churches in person.

The research has also identified social trends, such as an apparent rise in the birth rate following Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s wedding in 1840.

He said: “I’ve been doing this for well over a decade and when I look back there’s a sense of ‘what have I done?’ It started as a personal project but after the first 1,000 or so, I realised I’d amassed an enormous amount of information that could be very helpful to share.

“It has become more serious over time but I make no grand claims about it and it’s evolved in a fairly haphazard manner, as and when I’m able to go somewhere.

“It has always been a leisure activity — in my work I was often looking at some horrible buildings, so it was a welcome relief to look at something beautiful and historic.

“Occasionally I’ll meet somebody wh has come across the site. I was once speaking to a planning consultant who was amazed when he realised I was behind it.

“I’m very much looking forward to the lockdown ending as I wasn’t able to visit many churches when the last one was lifted. It’s going to be a priority this year.”

To view the record, visit www.theparishchurch.co.uk

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