Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Great Wilbraham, Cambridgeshire

St Nicholas is a cruciform church but has lost its central tower whilst retaining a fantastic original crossing with painted arches and both transepts, a fine Norman door arch and matching font - the rest is anodyne and is a perfect example of an over restored church, pleasant enough but nothing to get the heart pounding.

However this was a Templars church signified by the Templar coffin lid in the tower and the Templar cross in the north wall, so I'll be forgiving (I have a thing about the Templars, as I may have mentioned before).

ST NICHOLAS. A flint-built church. One N window tells of the Norman church at Wilbraham. Then came the church which essentially still stands: a cruciform E.E. building. Of this lancets remain in the nave and the S transept, the S doorway with three defaced orders and a steep arch with keeled mouldings and dog-tooth ornament, the arch to a former S transept chapel with dog-tooth decoration and a hood-mould on stiff leaf stops, lancets in the chancel including a renewed group of three stepped ones in double-chamfered frames on the E side, and - most important - all four crossing arches. They are identical, except that the W side of the W arch, i.e. the one facing us, when we stand in the nave, has some specially fine keeled mouldings. For the rest the arches have semi-octagonal responds, plainly moulded capitals and double-chamfered arches. The crossing-tower, late in the Middle Ages, was replaced by a Perp W tower with diagonal buttresses, battlements and pinnacles. Of Perp windows the most interesting is the two-light transomed insertion in the S wall of the chancel, close to its W end, an addition made in many churches at that time and never adequately explained. - FONT. Square, Norman, with volutes at the comers, chip-carved saltire-crosses, rosettes etc. - MONUMENTS. Thomas Watson Ward d. 1750 and Miss Mary Ward d. 1756, both in a very early Neo-Gothic taste, with gables, pinnacles, and crocketing all still delightfully uninformed - the Gothic of Horace Walpole and his friend, the Cambridge antiquary William Cole, who was a friend of the then Vicar of Little Wilbraham.

St Nicholas

South door


Nave (2)

GREAT WILBRAHAM. Summer carpets its meadows with gold where the fens creep up to within seven miles of Cambridge. Ancient Britons left a trackway near Shardelow’s Well, and close by the Romans left a trace and the Saxons buried their dead. Never for a thousand years has this countryside been without inhabitants.

The church rises above the treetops, cross-shaped, yet with a quaintly embattled tower at the west end; there are not many churches with four central arches carrying no tower. The south doorway and the arch built into a wall of the south transept are both lovely with carving 700 years old or more. By the arch is a dainty little piscina, and there is a font carved with stars and zigzags, waves and flowers, at the time when Norman art was giving way to English. The four central arches are impressive, their simple chequer pattern touched with red paint 700 years ago. The east window has three lancets framed with graceful pillared arches, and there is a narrow Norman window with a picture of Our Lord as a boy. The peace memorial is a fine painting of St George in an oak-panelled recess.

Flickr set.

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