Stonehenge, the Tower of London, York Minster, Longleat - all familiar, all among England's most visited places. But, what about the wonderful Roman villa at Lullingstone in Kent? Or Manchester Town Hall, with its stunning Victorian murals? Or the medieval sculpture at Lanercost Priory in Cumbria. All equally rewarding, all far too easily overlooked. In "Hidden Treasures", Michael McNay pays tribute to England's less well-known gems, highlighting the astonishing masterpieces to be found scattered across the length and breadth of the country.In some cases it may be an entire building that draws his attention, but more often than not it is a particular object or highlight - a painting hidden away in a corner of a stately home, perhaps; magnificent stained glass in an otherwise unremarkable church; a seventeenth-century statue standing on a bleak urban roundabout; a medieval bridge everyone uses but no one stops to looks at. It may be the one thing worth seeing in a rather unpromising village. It may, just as easily, be jostling for attention among better-known tourist sites in the middle of a busy city. Whatever it is, each object or building is lovingly described, and its history given, along with a sense of how it fits in to the story of art and architecture in England.For those already familiar with particular places, "Hidden Treasures" offers an alternative itinerary. For those who dislike crowds, it shows how to leave the tourist trail well behind. And for those who want to stop and look rather than simply glance, it shows where and how to look.
Michael McNay worked for the Guardian for some 37 years during which he wrote and edited features, was northern art critic and, on transferring to the London office, arts editor writing frequently on fine art and cinema. Later he edited the opinion and analysis page and, when new technology was introduced, was closely involved in the newspaper's redesign. He is now a freelance writer.