The property pages of Country Life invariably feature an old rectory or two, probably graceful 18th-century, of honeyed Cotswold stone, and if you plan to move in you will need a deep pocket. This is Aga Saga country, Joanna Trollope territory. Old vicarages, old rectories, all the defrocked plant of the Church of England, are in hot demand: the estate agent’s dream. They are substantial, elegant, they propose permanence and stability and some sort of evocative past, and today they will be tricked out with central heating, en suite bathrooms and, of course, that Aga.
It was not always thus. Deborah Alun-Jones’s book is a collection of essays about various vicarages, parsonages, chancelleries and their well-known inhabitants, from Sydney Smith to John Betjeman, and it has to be said that a resounding theme is the cold.