In the back of any copy of Pevsner’s guides to the buildings of England is a glossary explaining architectural terms. What is a squinch? A corbel? A quoin? Here, complete with pictures, are your answers. You’ll also find information about architectural styles and their dates, how Romanesque became Transitional, then Early English, and later on Perpendicular. If you can be bothered to absorb the information you ought to be able to pop into a village church, look at a window, and be able to say, within about fifty years, when it was built.
Building styles, of churches and grand buildings at least, developed through the various versions of ‘Gothic’ then became Classical – like All Saints in Northampton – straighter lines, rectangular windows, a simpler, boxier style with, hopefully, something of the harmonious elegance of Greek and Roman buildings.
And then this happened.
From about the middle of the Nineteenth Century, the architecture of religious buildings and some others – many University main buildings, for instance – lurched back into a Gothic style. Windows became pointy again. Stone was used in preference to brick. Windows were glazed with leaded lights as if we had forgotten how to make panes of glass.
A loss of confidence? A desire to separate sacred and secular? Or something more sinister, the triumph of symbolic thinking that loves to label everything to avoid really seeing it?