Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 December 1998
The comprehensive neglect of English church buildings in the century after the Reformation until the advent of Archbishop Laud has long stood as one of the standard readings of English church history. This article argues that attitudes towards the building and repair of churches in the pre-Laudian period were far more complex than has previously been recognized. It documents a sustained revival of church building and beautification in London that took place well before Laud's emergence, and which is inexplicable without reference to a whole range of practical and social, as well as religious, forces. This evidence, however, should not lead us to downplay the novelty and distinctiveness of the Laudian building programme. Rather, it is suggested here that Laudian polemic advanced a specific view of puritanism as incorporating a profane neglect and contempt of both church services and of the building which housed them. It is this vision of puritan neglect that not only provided a justification for Laudian changes to church practices and interiors in the 1630s, but which has also deflected the attention of later historians away from programmes of church repair in the reign of James I.
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