INTRODUCTION:

Churches and Cathedrals play a major role in the social life of England. In addition to being places of worship, they also serve as important landmarks for major historical events. They reflect the customs and traditions of the English as many of them have been standing there for several centuries. They also serve as a center of religious unity and Christians from all sections visit churches on Sunday to worship the Almighty. This also serve as a regional gathering and evokes a sense of unity among the people when they are all gathered together. Both the unity and the devotion helps them in maintaining a peaceful and harmonious social and personal life.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND:

Churches and Cathedrals have been of prime importance in the United Kingdom for several centuries now. English Cathedrals can be traced back to a period of 400 years whereas the oldest English church is more than 1300 years old. The oldest English church was built in the year 654 A.D. whereas the oldest surviving parish church was constructed in 670 A.D.

Three types of churches were built in the olden days. They were “The Cathedral Churches”, “The Collegiate Churches” and “The Local Churches”. As per the system of hierarchy the Cathedrals were of the highest authority and were described as the mother churches whereas the collegiate churches were under the second level and were also referred as daughter churches. Finally, there were the local churches which were private in organization and were organized by bishops or by an association of parishioners. The parish churches were usually built and maintained by the Lords.

IMPORTANT CHURCHES AND CATHEDRALS:

Here is a list of some of the important churches and cathedrals in England:

  • Barking Baptist Church at Barking
  • Christ Church, Thames View at Barking
  • Congregational Church at Dagenham
  • Harmony Christian Centre at Dagenham
  • Hartley Brook Church at Dagenham
  • Potter’s House at Dagenham
  • St. Alban at Becontree
  • St. Chad at Chadwell Heath
  • St. Mark at Mark’s Gate
  • St. Vincent at Becontree
  • Tree of Life Church at Becontree

ARCHITECTURE:

Most of the Churches were constructed in the shape of a cross. There was a large rectangle with two side rooms. Usually, a tall tower was also present on the west. The other shapes commonly used for constructing churches were circle, octagon, etc. The roof was mostly in the shape of a dome.

The churches were well furnished for sitting. The place was very large so as to accommodate many people since this was the main purpose of a church. The churches consisted of statues or portraits of Jesus.

CONCLUSION:

Since medieval times, United Kingdom was known all over the world for its churches and cathedrals. Many British Empires were influenced by the church in the past. It also resulted in the downfall of a few empires. Even today, Churches and Cathedrals have direct or indirect influence in the English society. Thus, they have always held an important place in the social and political fabric of England though their influence has reduced a bit in modern times.

There are many terms floating around that describe the United Kingdom and its associated components and I’m hoping to shed some light on what they mean as I’m so used to hearing them used interchangeably and it frustrates me.

Firstly, I am a citizen of a country called the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, often shortened to the United Kingdom or the UK. And so, what is the United Kingdom?

Well, it all started with the Kingdom of England which was formed following a conquest by King Athelstan in 927AD unifying ‘the English lands’, which comprised of modern day England and Wales.

The infamous Battle of Hastings in 1066 saw the Normans take control of the Kingdom, though boundaries and names remained the same.

Fast forward 700 years to 1707 and the Acts of Union which saw the unification of the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland (whose boundaries match those of modern-day Scotland). This followed about 100 years of the two Kingdoms sharing a monarch, after King James VI of Scotland inherited the English crown from his distant relative Queen Elizabeth I, who has Queen of England. And so the Kingdom of Great Britain was born, taking its name from the island the Kingdom now covered (the island of Great Britain consists of modern day England, Scotland and Wales).

In 1801, the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland (which encompassed the second of two major islands comprising the British Isles – Ireland, or Eire in Gaelic) merged to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. This was also referred to simply as the United Kingdom, though it does not reflect the United Kingdom of today. It is also the only time that a single country covered the whole of the British Isles (Ireland, Great Britain and minor outlying isles).

This ended in 1922 when the Irish regained their independence from the UK, though a portion of the island in the northeast, referred to as Northern Ireland, exercised their right to opt out of seceding from the United Kingdom and thus, the modern day country of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was formed.

So the British Isles currently consists of two countries: the UK and the Republic of Ireland (consisting of the island of Ireland minus Northern Ireland).

The United Kingdom then is comprised of four entities, some formerly countries in their own right: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, though none of these can now be referred to as countries in their own right.

The reason for this is that in order to be recognised as a country, that country must meet eight criteria and in the case of all four constituent parts, they fail at least one of the criteria, thus not making them eligible to be called a country.

So what should we call modern day England, Scotland or Wales for example? Well, the truth is, I don’t know. I don’t think anyone does. They are still colloquially referred to as countries and though this is not technically correct, each country still thinks of itself as such. They all have their own flag, Wales has its own language, Scotland prints its own bank notes and England has its own football team. All entities make their own laws in certain devolved areas of government, such as healthcare and education.

The truth is, the United Kingdom probably has the most complex history of all nations on Earth in terms of how it came to be what it is today and as such, there comes a lot of complications when defining certain areas and entities, especially when historic terms live on. But the following is a basic summary of all the associated terms:

  • United Kingdom: the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • Great Britain: the largest island in the British Isles
  • British Isles: the archipelago north of France
  • Northern Ireland: the part of Ireland which decided to remain as part of the United Kingdom following Ireland’s independence
  • Ireland: the second largest island in the British Isles (also known by its Gaelic name Eire)
  • Republic of Ireland: the portion of Ireland which gained independence from the UK in 1922
  • England: a formerly independent nation as the Kingdom of England now part of the United Kingdom, retaining its original, well-defined boundaries
  • Scotland: a formerly independent nation as the Kingdom of Scotland, now part of the United Kingdom retaining its original, well-defined boundaries
  • Wales: a formerly independent nation prior to being enveloped in the Kingdom of England, now part of the United Kingdom retaining its original, well-defined boundaries
  • British/Briton/Brit: a citizen of the United Kingdom or something originating from the United Kingdom
  • Irish: a citizen of the Republic of Ireland
  • English: a resident of England; also, the language that originated in England (and is now spoken almost everywhere in the world)
  • Scottish: a resident of Scotland; also, a dialect of English, spoken in Scotland
  • Welsh: a resident of Wales; also, one of the two languages officially spoken in Wales (the other being English)

So when people ask me if I am English, I reply yes and when people ask me if I am British, I say yes. The first response is a reference to what region I am from and the second is a reference to what country I am a citizen of. The equivalent would be someone in Florida saying they are both an American and a Floridian.

So, use the terms above as a guide and try to remember that England is not the be all and end all of the UK. If you’re having trouble, ask yourself if Sean Connery is British. If you reply yes, then you’ve got it, otherwise, you’ve got more homework to do!