Three new publications from English Heritage have just appeared, and two of them come with wake-up calls from their authors. Christopher Martin's A Glimpse of Heaven (£25) is a chronological account of 100 Catholic churches in England and Wales from the Reformation to Quinlan Terry's Brentwood Cathedral of 1988. Full-page photos show some notable interiors at their best, whether the sumptuous St Charles Borromeo in Hull ('a fantastical Roman church with a heavy touch of the Austrian rococo'); the sober Gothic of Norwich's Catholic Cathedral; or the surprising simplicity of St Mary's Chapel, Lulworth (pictured), whose appeal lies in its carpentry and bluish paint, not in elaborate decoration.
Pugin of course is well-represented; from the 20thcentury Francis Pollen's Worth Abbey stands out; but most impressive overall is J F Bentley's (unfinished) Westminster Cathedral - that huge sombre brick cavern relieved by marbles and mosaics below. One premise of the book is that professional recognition of these churches has been 'slow' and that they're under-listed; meanwhile, roofs leak and dry rot spreads. 'In some places our Catholic heritage is hanging by a thread, ' says EH chief executive Simon Thurley.
These sentiments were echoed at the launch of Sharman Kadish's Jewish Heritage in England: An Architectural Guide (£16.99), with news that synagogues had been demolished while the book was in production, and that more were under threat. In contrast to the volume on Catholic churches, this is presented as a pocket-sized guide, organised by region, with descriptive texts, plenty of photos, maps of walking tours, and details about visiting. Some inclusions (eg.
Princes Road Synagogue, Liverpool) are remarkably opulent.
Lastly comes the first English Heritage Historical Review (£20). Scholarly and attractively produced, it inaugurates what will be an annual series from EH, presenting 'new historical discoveries' about buildings in its care. The 10 essays are very varied in their topics, from the Roman amphitheatre at Chester to a 17th-century staircase in Newcastle, via Calshot Castle on Southampton Water, with its battery disguised as a bungalow ( www. english-heritage. org. uk).