‘The Angel Roofs of East Anglia’ Makes the East Anglican Daily Times Shortlist!

At The Lutterworth Press, we are delighted to announce that Michael Rimmer’s The Angel Roofs of East Anglia: Unseen Masterpieces of the Middle Ages has been shortlisted for the History and Tradition prize at 2016 East Anglian Book Awards.

It has been estimated that over 90 per cent of England’s figurative medieval art was obliterated in the image destruction of the Reformation. Medieval angel roofs, timber structures with spectacular and ornate carvings of angels, with a peculiar preponderance in East Anglia, were simply too difficult for Reformation iconoclasts to reach. Angel roof carvings comprise the largest surviving body of major English medieval wood sculpture. Though they are both masterpieces of sculpture and engineering, angel roofs have been almost completely neglected by academics and art historians, because they are inaccessible, fixed and challenging to photograph.

The Angel Roofs of East Anglia is the first detailed historical and photographic study of the region’s many medieval angel roofs. It shows the artistry and architecture of these inaccessible and little-studied medieval artworks in more detail and clarity than ever before, and explains how they were made, by whom, and why.

Michael Rimmer redresses the scholarly neglect and brings the beauty, craftsmanship and history of these astonishing medieval creations to the reader. The book also offers a fascinating new answer to the question of why angel roofs are so overwhelmingly an East Anglian phenomenon, but relatively rare elsewhere in the country.


Angel Roofs copy

Before  any  visit  to  a  historic  church,  habit  leads  me  to  start  with  Pevsner,  whose  deadpan  description  of  the  roof of  St  Nicholas,  King’s  Lynn,  reads, “The roof has tie-beams on shallow arched braces with traceried spandrels. Above the tie-beams tracery and arched queenposts, also with tracery . . . each alternating  truss  has  angels  as  hammerbeams.”  There is little there to indicate that St Nicholas’ angel roof is a miracle of English carpentry, one of many such to be found throughout East Anglia where  the  genre  flourished  from  the  late  1390s until  the  1530s,  at  which  point  the  artistically deadening hand of Reformation began to sweep away  religious  imagery.  Amidst  the  turbulent iconoclasm   of   the   Reformation   years, when so  much ecclesiastical  art  and  decoration  was defaced and destroyed, most angel roofs survived, protected  by  their  inaccessibility.  Of  the  170 surviving  angel  roofs  in  England,  roughly  70 per  cent  can  be  found  in  Norfolk,  Suffolk  and Cambridgeshire.  The  same  inaccessibility  that protected  these  roofs  has  also  made  them  hard  to  appreciate  without  the  aid  of  binoculars  and the  resulting  consequence  of  a  stiff  neck.

This book  is  of  great  importance  because  Michael  Rimmer,  a  keen  photographer  and  connoisseur  of  angel  roofs,  has  succeeded  in  documenting virtually  every  surviving  medieval  angel  roof  in East  Anglia.  Thanks  to  scaffolding  in  churches under restoration, I have been privileged enough to get up close to an angel roof a few times. Now thanks to Michael’s photographs, that experience is available to many for whom these photographs will  be a revelation, showing  the  complex mix of  carpentry, engineering,  artistry  and  faith  that make these roofs so thrilling to contemplate. I have the honour of being Chairman of The Churches   Conservation Trust;  St Nicholas, King’s  Lynn, with  its  angel  roof,  is  among  the nearly  350  churches  we  care  for.  I  believe  they all  have  the  power  to  galvanize communities and inspire and  delight individuals.With  a  generosity  to  match  his  talent, Michael has kindly decided to donate his royalties from this book to The Churches Conservation Trust and all lovers of the English parish church should be grateful to him.

Loyd Grossman
Chairman of The Churches Conservation Trust

Angel Roofs_9780718893699
The Angel Roofs of East Anglia: Unseen masterpieces of the Middle Ages by Michael Rimmer – click through for more details!

More praise and reviews includes:

“Michael Rimmer allows us to enter worlds that are otherwise remote. His text provides privileged access to the minds both of the medieval kings and carpenters who produced the roofs, and the early modern religious vandals who diminished them. But the greatest privilege is to see the roofs themselves through his camera lens. As we move from distant views of angels in whole ranks to close-ups of their faces and their attributes, we seem to hear the music of their instruments and the song of their voices, even feel the fluttering of those magic wings. To hold this book in your hands is to gain early entry to Paradise.”
Professor John Onians, Professor Emeritus of World Art, University of East Anglia

“The Angel Roofs of East Anglia is a wonderful book about a remarkable form of medieval English architecture. In the Middle Ages, English carpenters designed and built a number of the world’s most innovative and ingenious timber framed buildings. Hammer beam roofs, some of which were adorned with carved and painted angels – most notably the one completed in 1399 that spans the Hall of Westminster Palace – were the English carpenter’s most spectacular achievement. Rimmer’s book explains and celebrates a forgotten but truly awe-inspiring type of craftsmanship and construction.”
David Leviatin, editor of The Mortice and Tenon Magazine

“The Angel Roofs of East Anglia captures perfectly the sheer beauty and fun of this amazing feature of East Anglian churches. The angels tell us so much about the history not only of the churches that they adorn but the craftspeople who created them. The Churches Conservation Trust is enormously proud to look after some of the amazing places photographed in the book; I think that when people see what treasures exist on their doorsteps Angel Roofs will inspire a whole new generation to visit and enjoy this country’s historic churches.”
Crispin Truman, Chief Executive of The Churches Conservation Trust

For more reviews, information and reviews, click through here!

Michael Rimmer’s The Angel Roofs of East Anglia: Unseen Masterpieces of the Middle Ages is available on our website,

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