Most writings on church history have been concerned mainly with church hierarchy, and with theology, liturgy and canon law. This book looks at the church 'from below', from the lowest stratum of its organisation - the parish - in which the church building is seen as the parishioners' handiwork and as a reflection of local popular culture. The book discusses in turn the origin and development of the system of precisely-defined parishes, their function - in terms of economics and personnel - and the church fabric which embodied the aspirations of parishioners, who saw the church more as an expression of their cultural and social hopes than as the embodiment of their faith. The book ends with the failure of the parish to meet all of its obligations - social, governmental and religious - from the late eighteenth century onwards.
'Professor Pounds's illuminating history ... is rewarding reading for anybody interested in local history or church architecture ... as an account of the evolution of the parish it is hard to see how it could be better.' Country Life '... a full, proficient and readable guide to work that is voluminous and often disparate, and will be welcomed as an introduction to this important subject'. The English Historical Review 'Pounds draws on the most recent research and adds much of his own.' Times Higher Education Supplement 'This book is a magisterial account ... of the history of the parish from its earliest beginnings to the modern period ... invaluable and accessible ... a book to be treasured and enjoyed ... this book will become a universal classic without which no library large or small, amateur or professional, will be complete.' Landscapes 'A compendious but clearly organised account of the religious and secular functions of the parish.' Northern History 'As a history of the English parish Pounds' is indeed encyclopaedic. As a work of reference it will prove invaluable, and its concern with the materiality of religion makes it also a work of great relevance to archaeology.' Medieval Archaeology