Saturday, 5 March 2011

Grantchester, Cambridgeshire

I had a meeting in Cambridge last Tuesday so decided to fill in a few holes in my visit map and left early to drop in on Harston, Hauxton, Trumpington and Grantchester. Following a glorious weekend of sunshine, which seemed to presage Spring, it was overcast with an easterly wind and frankly, bloody cold - not ideal churching conditions.

I don't know whether it was the dour 'Cambridge' style of the churches, the weather or a combination of both but I was severely disappointed.

Grantchester itself is lovely, a little too far up it's arse for my taste, but still lovely nevertheless and SS Andrew and Mary does not detract. The church and the setting are both perfect but the interior was dark and gloomy and lacked soul. The problem lies with the Victorian south aisle, the truly hideous arches and, I suspect years of mistreatment during the reformation, Dowsing's attentions and the said Victorian makeover. Having said that I took 58 pictures so there is some interest therein, particularly the chancel which I imagine on a bright day would be light and airy. The solution seems to be to visit when the sun is out!

The churches suffered comparison with my trip on Friday - back to sunshine, relative warmth and a romp through Suffolk with Cavendish and Long Melford thrown in...any Cambridgeshire church is going to find it hard to live up to those high standards!

ST ANDREW AND ST MARY. That there was a Norman or a Late Saxon church here is proved by the fragments placed in the S wall when this was rebuilt in 1877. There are a small window, some interlace panels, and some zigzag. As for the present church what raises it high above the run of Cambridgeshire village churches is its splendid chancel. Outside it is ashlar-faced and has windows with decidedly original flowing tracery, especially one design occurring twice on the N and once on the S side. These side windows are of three lights, the E window is of five and of a more common Dec type of tracery (renewed). Internally all these windows have nook-shafts, and between them are tall two-light blank arches under one nodding ogee arch. Nodding ogee arches above the sculpture niches l. and r. of the E window, and even above the piscina. Low ogee recess in the N wall, no doubt once containing the tomb of the founder or donor of this chancel. The designers came probably from the Lady Chapel workshop at Ely. Chancel arch double-chamfered on semi-octagonal responds. The rest of the church is quickly described. W tower plastered and embattled with a short lead spire. Two W windows above each other, the lower with the shield of Bishop Fordham of Ely who ruled from 1388 to 1426. That dates the tower. Nave without aisles; Perp windows. The easternmost of them goes lower down than the others and has an elaborately moulded frame. It may replace a Dec transept window. N porch half-timbered. - PULPIT. Jacobean. - PLATE. Chalice and Paten of 1648 ; Paten of 1723. MONUMENT. Now at the E end of the S aisle. Tomb-chest with five quatrefoil panels. Perp arch above with traceried spandrels.

SS Andrew & Mary (3)

SS Andrew & Mary (4)

Pelican in her piety (1)

Norman window

Mee has a fulsome entry for Grantchester so I've extracted his thoughts on the church:

The medieval church has a small window which may be Saxon, and part of a Norman doorway, and built with them into the walls are Roman tiles and pieces of a Roman quern. The massive round bowl of the font is Norman.

It is a Tudor porch with a timbered gable which leads us inside, where candles still light the dim hours, burning in upright candelabra standing like little trees among the benches. There is a Jacobean pulpit and fragments of old glass in the windows, but it is the lovely 14th century chancel that Grantchester’s people delight in; it is an exquisite possession. The walls on each side above the stringcourse have a series of windows and fine niches in brick making an arcade of niches linking up the windows with their flowing tracery. The decoration runs round the east wall where the lovely window has tracery like a great butterfly among leaves. The arch into the chancel is 15th century. A low medieval tomb carved with flowers and shields has lost its brasses. A brass inscription tells of Robert Nimmo, a naval chaplain who was drowned on his homeward voyage in 1880. In the churchyard lies the first principal of Newnham College, Anne Jemina Clough. Here also is the peace memorial with Rupert Brooke’s name and 16 others, the "men with splendid

Flickr set.

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