By Iris Corday
BRYAN LITTLE set himself quite a task when he planned to write an architectural survey of all postreformation Catholic churches built in England and Wales from the time it became legal to do so in the 17th century until the present day. Very little previous ground work has been done on the subject and what has been done is largely historical rather than architectural, so that this book represents a lot of hard digging in virgin soil to reach the facts.
At the end the reader has nothing but admiration for the enormous accumulation of knowledge which is displayed in the pages of Catholic Churches Since 1623 (Hale, 42s.). The detailed information which the writer has stored up about each church (400 alone are indexed, did he visit them all?) is staggering. His will be a source book for art historians specialising in ecclesiastical architecture for some time to come, although to preserve it from dating the last chapters on present development will need constant revision.
Necessarily the larger part of this work is concerned with the past, but Mr. Little's tastes are not "dyed-in-the-wool" traditionalist, he is obviously a Vatican II man with an understanding of growth and the desirability of change, and his chapters on the contemporary church are fine. challenging stuff coming after the drier, factual statements of the historical period.
From this part of the book the man himself emerges with strong likes and dislikes. For instance, he will not have old church styles masquerading as new under dolled-up modern decoration (although he is all for the reconstruction of some older buildings).
He does not believe that the wholly circular church, with a central altar and worshippers all the way round, is a good one. and here he makes an interesting parallel with "theatre in the round". Instead he commends the fan shape, such as the Good Shepherd, Arnold, near Nottingham, or the T-shape, like Our Lady of Fatima, Harlow, both by the same architect Gerard Goalen.
In his "Cathedral epilogue", he plunges bravely into an assessment of the two projected cathedrals, Liverpool and Clifton, both likely to represent to posterity the typical church design of our time. While reserving judgment until its completion, he clearly suspects Liverpool may be a gigantic mistake and pins his hopes on the still nebulous project in Clifton Park.
ALTHOUGH Phyllis Willmott d: scribes Consumer's Guide to the British Social Services (Pelican Original, 6s.) as "not a textbook," this is exactly what it is a complete handbook to the whole gamut of social services available in Britain.
From where to pick up your pension to the more complicated aspects of social security, she covers everything. You want to find out all about maintenance allowances, or grants or industrial injuries or even "flying angels," the term given to special child helpers who will live in the home if the mother is absent? Then look it up in the index.
State services are not the only ones covered. Mrs. Willmott includes many of the voluntary societies, even the less orthodox such as the Albany Trust which is currently concentrating on the problems of homosexuality.
Apart from the book's value as a work of reference it is also valuable in showing just how delicate our social services are. A shortage of staff and a general scarcity of resources is the overall picture which should sound a warning to all of us, not just the services themselves.