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Friday, November 7, 2014

Regan Walker and a look at English Churches before the Conquest

Good historical research should complement not overwhelm a story and one of the best exponents of the art is Regan Walker. 

Although Regan and I live on opposite sides of the Pacific, we have very similar backgrounds. Like a good lawyer she has an eye for detail and accuracy so her books are a delight. 
As a child Regan Walker loved to write stories, particularly about adventure-loving girls, but by the time she got to college more serious pursuits took priority. One of her professors encouraged her to pursue the profession of law, which she did. Years of serving clients in private practice and several stints in high levels of government gave her a love of international travel and a feel for the demands of the “Crown” on its subjects. Hence her romance novels often involve a demanding Prince Regent who thinks of his subjects as his private talent pool.
Regan lives in San Diego with her golden retriever, Link, whom she says inspires her every day to relax and smell the roses. You can find out more about Regan on her website:

With The Red Wolf's Prize (Medieval Warriors Book 1) , which is set in England a few years before the Conquest. she has moved from her beloved eighteenth century to the pre Medieval period - hence the research into....


At the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066 AD, England was a place of “unwalled villages,” separated by shires and different subcultures, even different language dialects. Most of the Anglo-Saxon thegns lived in manor houses constructed of wood, though perhaps highly decorated inside.

The decades before the Conquest were prosperous for the ruling class and there was great patronage of church building. Having learned their lessons from the Viking raids, where wooden churches were burned, the English did build stone churches before the Conquest, and some of those survive to this day.

Brixworth Church
Brixworth Church in Northamptonshire is the oldest Anglo-Saxon church in England still standing today. It dates to the 7th century. Many elements from the original building remain visible, although there are later additions, notably the tower, from the 10th, 13th and 19th centuries. What remains of the original building is a nave with windows, a presbytery separated from the nave by a great arch, and an apse rebuilt in the 19th century on the original foundation.

Another example of early Anglo-Saxon church architecture is that of St. Peter’s Church in Barton-upon-Humber in Lincolnshire which dates to the late 10th or early 11th century (the third story added in the Norman period). It was described by Thomas Rickman, architectural historian, as evidencing "structural stratification," that is, one phase of the building resting upon another. Thus, the bottom structure is believed to be of Anglo-Saxon origin, and the tower on top a Norman structure.

St. Peter’s Church, Barton-upon-Humber, Lincolnshire

Church floor plans varied widely. Small porches or chapels were built onto simple rectangular churches, but others might be in the classic crucifix pattern.

St. Botolph’s Church, Hardham
In my story The Red Wolf’s Prize, I based the church that my heroine’s father built at Talisand on St. Botolph’s in Hardham. (See picture below.) They would not have had pews, of course, as the faithful stood, but the English did have plastered walls, which were painted with vivid pictures and stories from the Bible. It was a good way of teaching the stories to peasants who could not read. The Anglo-Saxons loved decoration, including stone carving.

St. Botolph’s was believed to have been constructed on the eve of the Conquest. The inside walls are thought to have been painted by a group of artists known as the Lewes Group shortly after 1100. Though the colors have faded, the paintings, which cover nearly all the church, are still clearly seen.

While many windows were unglazed and slices of horn made up the small multi-paned windows, glass windows were being made by Anglo-Saxon artisans by at least the 10th century. Windowpanes were also imported from the Continent. So, the window in the church in The Red Wolf’s Prize could very well have existed.

The effect of the Norman occupation on Anglo-Saxon churches was dramatic. William I thought nothing of burning churches and in 1069 burned both churches and monasteries in his “harrying of the north.” The Anglo-Saxons were not noted for great cathedrals and churches. Not much of the Anglo-Saxon churches remain today. Instead, we see physical reminders of the Norman presence, including their cathedrals, abbeys and monasteries that symbolized their victory. 

ABOUT RED WOLF'S PRIZE:  An Amazon Best Seller!


Sir Renaud de Pierrepont, the Norman knight known as the Red Wolf for the beast he slayed with his bare hands, hoped to gain lands with his sword. A year after the Conquest, King William rewards his favored knight with Talisand, the lands of an English thegn slain at Hastings, and orders him to wed Lady Serena, the heiress that goes with them. 


Serena wants nothing to do with the fierce warrior to whom she has been unwillingly given, the knight who may have killed her father. When she learns the Red Wolf is coming to claim her, she dyes her flaxen hair brown and flees, disguised as a servant, determined to one day regain her lands. But her escape goes awry and she is brought back to live among her people, though not unnoticed by the new Norman lord. 

Deprived of his promised bride, the Red Wolf turns his attention to the comely servant girl hoping to woo her to his bed. But the wench resists, claiming she hates all Normans. 
As the passion between them rises, Serena wonders, can she deny the Norman her body? Or her heart? 

BUY The Red Wolf's Prize (Medieval Warriors Book 1)  on Amazon.