An author's first duty, at any rate in the department of literature to which this book belongs, is to define his subject. Sometimes he can do this simply enough through the medium of a title. In other cases his subject defies all attempts to affix to it a label which shall be sufficiently explanatory and yet conform to the rationing system that modern taste imposes on him in this respect. To avoid any misunderstanding in the present case it may be as well to explain that this book is concerned with the churches of the Establishment erected in England, but outside the present county of London, during the period 1603-1837.
To some critics it may seem that the limitation of its scope is too arbitrary. In Stuart and Georgian times, it will be said, leadership in architectural matters belonged to the capital; what justification can there be for omitting the London churches from your survey? The first and obvious reply is that, while books on the London churches already exist, books on the provincial churches of the period do not, so that it is extremely difficult for anyone without a good deal of time to spend on the quest to find out anything about them. Then, while it is true that some knowledge of the London churches is necessary to place the provincial examples in proper perspective, it is equally true--but not very widely recognized--that the tradition of ecclesiastical building from Elizabeth to Victoria can be studied in its full continuity and variety only in the provinces. In Wren's City churches and in those built by Hawksmoor and others under the Act of Queen Anne, London has, admittedly, two series which the provinces cannot parallel. But between the accession of George II and the Battle of Waterloo new churches in London were few and far between, and with one or two exceptions (of which the younger Dance's All Hallows, London Wall is the most remarkable) not particularly distinguished at that. Certain phases of stylistic development, notably the "rococo Gothic" of the mid-eighteenth century and the earliest Greek Revival, are not represented at all in the churches of the capital, while the small country church, which of all types was perhaps the most successfully developed during our period, is by definition absent.
What one might call the metropolitan bias of architectural historians has been among the contributory factors obscuring the wealth of Stuart and Georgian church architecture outside London. Another has been the indifference or open antagonism of guide-book compilers. (The latter state is the more desirable; I was first sent to Shobdon (1, 89), some years back, by the statement that "the church was built in 1753, and looks like it," which was certainly not meant as a recommendation). A third factor is the attitude of writers of ecclesiastical history; Abbey and Overton, in The Church of England in the Eighteenth Century, managed . . .