Vanishing England eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 374 pages of information about Vanishing England.

       And as the fisherman strays
       When the clear cold eve’s declining,
       He sees the round tower of other days
       In the wave beneath him shining.

In the depths of the country, far from the sea, we can find many deserted shrines, many churches that once echoed with the songs of praise of faithful worshippers, wherein were celebrated the divine mysteries, and organs pealed forth celestial music, but now forsaken, desecrated, ruined, forgotten.

        The altar has vanished, the rood screen flown,
        Foundation and buttress are ivy-grown;
        The arches are shattered, the roof has gone,
        The mullions are mouldering one by one;
        Foxglove and cow-grass and waving weed
        Grow over the scrolls where you once could read

Many of them have been used as quarries, and only a few stones remain to mark the spot where once stood a holy house of God.  Before the Reformation the land must have teemed with churches.  I know not the exact number of monastic houses once existing in England.  There must have been at least a thousand, and each had its church.  Each parish had a church.  Besides these were the cathedrals, chantry chapels, chapels attached to the mansions, castles, and manor-houses of the lords and squires, to almshouses and hospitals, pilgrim churches by the roadside, where bands of pilgrims would halt and pay their devotions ere they passed along to the shrine of St. Thomas at Canterbury or to Our Lady at Walsingham.  When chantries and guilds as well as monasteries were suppressed, their chapels were no longer used for divine service; some of the monastic churches became cathedrals or parish churches, but most of them were pillaged, desecrated, and destroyed.  When pilgrimages were declared to be “fond things vainly invented,” and the pilgrim bands ceased to travel along the pilgrim way, the wayside chapel fell into decay, or was turned into a barn or stable.

It is all very sad and deplorable.  But the roll of abandoned shrines is not complete.  At the present day many old churches are vanishing.  Some have been abandoned or pulled down because they were deemed too near to the squire’s house, and a new church erected at a more respectful distance.  “Restoration” has doomed many to destruction.  Not long ago the new scheme for supplying Liverpool with water necessitated the converting of a Welsh valley into a huge reservoir and the consequent destruction of churches and villages.  A new scheme for supplying London with water has been mooted, and would entail the damming up of a river at the end of a valley and the overwhelming of several prosperous old villages and churches which have stood there for centuries.  The destruction of churches in London on account of the value of their site and the migration of the population, westward and eastward, has been frequently deplored.  With the exception of All Hallows, Barking; St. Andrew’s

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Vanishing England from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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