Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Cottenham, Cambridgeshire

Apart from the orthodox, as in Russian, looking spire All Saints left me rather cold. I think a combination of Dowsing and well meaning Victorian restorers has left it without soul; it's one of those over restored Cambridgeshire churches that must once have been magnificent but is now rather dull.

ALL SAINTS. The feature one remembers about Cottenham church is the tower with its odd stepped battlements and bulbous ogee pinnacles. It is of yellow and pale pink brick and dates, except for the ashlar-faced lower part, from 1617-19. It has openings with Y-tracery. It was in existence when Pepys visited his relatives at Cottenham. The rest of the church is all Perp except for the chancel arch which dates from c. 1225. Tall octagonal arcade piers (four bays), hollow-chamfered. arches, clerestory, plain nave and aisle roofs, uniform Late Perp aisle windows. The chancel also Perp, but earlier. The chancel windows (E Window new) very tall, of three lights, the Sedilia and Piscina handsomely stepped at the foot and with four-centred arches, a quatrefoil frieze and crenellations. The exterior is embattled throughout.

All Saints (4)

All Saints (5)

Gargoyle (4)


Nave (1)

COTTENHAM. We should come when its great orchards are in · bloom, for it is a lovely sight. Its pleasantest corner is where the village ends, where the 15th century church is crowned by a tower seen for miles. Round the walls of the church runs a gallery of ancient gargoyles, which may keep off evil spirits, as their medieval carvers believed, but do not frighten sparrows, which we found nesting in their very mouths. Indoors eight heads look out from between the 14th century arches, crowned with 15th century clerestories. The chancel has richly moulded stone seats, and an east window with tracery like water-lily leaves. An old chest has five locks with keys kept by five men, and there are oak benches made by a village craftsman last century. He has carved on them flowers, plants, and ferns growing in this countryside. None of the pews are the same and they are carved with thistle, clover, figs, berries, ivy, reeds, and arum lilies.

On the chancel wall is a record of the great storm which destroyed the steeple in 1617, it being rebuilt by Katherine Pepys. This was once a place full of that immortal name; Pepys of the Diary tells us that in Queen Elizabeth’s day there were 26 families in Cottenham named Pepys. Here was born that Thomas Tenison who was enthroned at Canterbury and was one of the Seven Bishops who sounded the death knell of the Stuarts in 1688. A brave man, he remained at his post through the Plague, and lived to preach the funeral service of Nell Gwynne and to crown the last of the Stuarts and the first of the Georges.

In the churchyard sleeps Florence Cox, Commandant of the Red Cross Hospital here in the war, and by her sleeps her husband after 40 years work as a doctor, friend of the friendless, as his inscription says. Her name is inscribed with those of the 59 men who fell in the war, the memorial to them having a striking figure in marching kit; it is floodlit by night and its noble words are these:

Their lot the glorious price to pay,
Ours to receive, with grateful pride
That freedom lives with us today
Because they died.

But what will seem to most people the best story of this village is that in September 1604 a baby was christened here, doubtless at this very font, whose name was John Colledge. He grew to manhood and,
like many liberty-loving men of those days, crossed the Atlantic, where his family took root and after nearly 300 years produced a President of the United States. In this corner of our countryside began the line which led to the White House.

Flickr.

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