Fun and not 'churchy'

IF you thought church architecture was as dull as a sermon on a wet Sunday then Richard Taylor might make you think again.

Here he is on a trailer for his new TV series on BBC4 tomorrow night...

"Good heavens! Golly! Really weird! Knockout! Amazing! Oh! Ooh! Oh wow!"

The Sheffield lawyer does not actually use all these words in one breath.

They've been stitched together from his six-part series on discovering the history of churches.

But you get the picture that Richard, head of intellectual property at DLA Piper, is no stuffed surplice. It's fun but not too 'churchy.'

The series, Churches: How To Read Them, was spawned by a similarly titled book he wrote seven years ago.

But will this turn him into a telly celeb?

"I am happy as a lawyer at DLA," says Richard, aged 43, from Ranmoor, who admits it took him a bit of time to work out his TV persona.

"In the first episode I was unsure if it was meant to be grave and serious and I went into Simon Schama mode a few times.

"To be truthful, that's not me and pretty soon I was bouncing around and letting my inner puppy dog out."

The series has been described as 'Time Team meets Grand Designs' but Richard, in pink shirt and sensible brown jacket, says: "I prefer to call it Time Team without the mud.".

But viewers will be glad to note that unlike those scruffy archaeologists his hair is very neat and tidy.

The history and archaeology is there. "You stand in one of these buildings and look around and you can read the past so clearly, as long as you know what to look for."

Married to Isobel, a vicar's daughter, Richard, a regular churchgoer himself, approaches the subject of church architecture from the point of an enthusiast.

The book has sold over 100,000 copies and been printed in five languages, and at one point outsold Justin Timberlake in a city bookshop.

The series takes him to 70 churches but, sadly, not to Sheffield, although he pleaded the case for the city's Anglican cathedral,.

"It's one of the most interesting for what you can find in it . . . and enough masonic symbols to keep Dan Brown happy!" he says loyally.

The nearest he comes to us is the 'Dracula' church of St Mary's in Whitby.

He says the book and the series is for anybody who has ever stood in the back of a church and wondered what was what and why.

And that's almost everyone.

Despite writing the book Richard was not the Beeb's first choice as presenter until they asked him if he wanted to have a go.

So what does he think of himself on the telly?

"It was one of the hardest things to realise the enormous gulf there is between the way you see yourself and the horrifying reality of it all!" he says.

The series starts tomorrow at 8.30pm on BBC4. His book, How To Read A Church, described as "a handy crash course in church literacy," is available from Ebury Press and from Amazon.

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