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The City of London Churches: A Pictorial Rediscovery

Photographs by Derek Kendall. Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England/Collins and Brown, 1998. 256pp. £25

Before the Great Fire of 1666 there were 97 churches within the City of London, writes Deborah Singmaster. Since then the number has declined to 39 Anglican parish churches, with a handful of buildings serving other religions bringing the number to 46. In the 1990s terrorist bombs virtually destroyed St Ethelburga's and caused severe damage to other churches. This book is a 'celebration' of the survivorsand a reminder of their vulnerability.

It is based on a selection of photographs by Derek Kendall, taken as part of a survey carried out by consulting engineer Alan Baxter Associates for the rchme, English Heritage and the Corporation of London in 1995, the first of its kind since records were compiled by the Royal Commission in the 1920s. Kendall's photographs, in colour and black and white, show the churches against the aggressive backdrop of the City, among cranes and curtain walls. Interior shots include easily overlooked details - brasses, reliefs - and some views of areas closed to the public such as seventeenth-century roof timbers at St Benet Paul's Wharf, undisturbed since the time of Wren.

Captions are concise and informative, and Peter Guillery provides a helpful historical introduction; a map and bibliography are also supplied. The book is an exhortation to embark instantly on a pilgrimage of discovery - or rediscovery. Londoners have no excuse - the Square Mile is a small area. But leave the book at home, the format is too generous for a vade mecum.

Pictured: St Katharine Cree, Leadenhall Street, 1628-31

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