Sunday, 25 March 2012

Herne, Kent

Taking advantage of a child collection from Canterbury yesterday I visited St Martin where my 1st cousin 5x removed was buried - I didn't find his grave but did find a monument to his grandson who died aged 2 months in 1874 and also Sir William Thornhurst d. 1606 who also appears in the family tree.

I liked the exterior - it's a stolid foursquare building, a maiden aunt of a church. Unfortunately the interior is a disappointment being over-restored and over carpeted - having said that I rather enjoyed it since, architecturally speaking, it's so diffeent from what I'm used to.

St Martin (2)

Headstone (2)

James William Robarts 1874

HERNE. Four things has the snug village of Herne that every traveller will wish to see: a tower, a screen, a chair, and a collection of brasses.

The chair is that of Nicholas Ridley, who sat in it when he was vicar here. He made this church famous by ordering that the Te Deum should be sung in English, and in these walls there was first heard in the music of our mother tongue those majestic words:

We praise Thee, O God, we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord.
All the Earth doth worship Thee, the Father everlasting.
O Lord, save Thy people, and bless Thine heritage.
Govern them and lift them up for ever.

This beautiful church was one of the last things that came into Ridley’s mind when he gave away his shirt to some poor man and walked into the fire at Oxford. Farewell, Herne," he said, "thou worshipful and wealthy parish, the first whereunto I was called to minister God’s word. I bless God for all that godly virtue the Lord did kindle in the life and heart of that godly woman there, my Lady Fineaux." She lies near the altar where he stood so often, and her brass is over her. It shows her in a flowing dress lined with fur, carrying a gold ball for holding spices to keep off plague. Her lord lies in the nave at Canterbury, having been a man of some importance in his day. His family came to England in a curious way. An English officer imprisoned in the French wars made friends with his gaoler, who helped him to escape on being promised some lands in Kent. He came home and the Frenchman followed him. His name was Fineaux, and he settled near Herne. There are four other brasses in the chancel and the lady chapel. On the right of the altar, by Lady Fineaux’s brass, is that of John Darley, who was vicar in 1450; he has a lion at his feet. Sir John Sea, who lived in the time of Shakespeare, is here with two wives; Lady Phelip, whose husband supplied the jewels for the coronation of Edward the Fourth, is on a brass of 1470, with much rich embroidery and a girdle and rosary; and the brass of Sir Peter and Lady Halle was made in 1420.

The church is worthy of its beautiful possessions. Its nave and its aisles have all good screens. The ancient screen is very finely carved with tracery, a grape vine running along the top, and the modern screen is a splendid copy. The 14th-century font is beautiful with heraldic panels. There is an attractive stone figure of Ridley in a canopied niche. The chancel has magnificent choir stalls, with misereres. On a wall above the sanctuary kneels Sir William Thornhurst, Captain of the Guard of the Archbishop’s palace at Ford, where Cranmer retired on the death of his royal master. He has been here since 1606, and has a friendly little dog on his helmet, which hangs above his tomb.

The church has a deed going back to 1154, an Elizabethan almsdish, and a brass inscription to Samuel Weller May before which thousands of visitors have stopped. He was a friend of Dickens, who borrowed his Christian names and made it impossible for the world to forget them.

The architectural gem of Herne is its flint tower - one of the very few perfect things in the world, said John Ruskin. Inside and out it is beautiful. It has a vaulted roof with a fine stone face at each corner, and a window extremely unusual and remarkably graceful.

Outside, it crowns the west end of the church as a thing of unforgettable beauty. It rises in layers of brown stone and black flint approached by an avenue of horse chestnuts. Close by is a fine old yew, with a sculpture of the Baptism of Christ looking down on it.

Herne has a windmill which has been a lovely sight from the Island of Sheppey for something like two hundred years.

I feel a re-visit is in order since I saw none of the brasses (although they may have been over-carpeted) nor the misericords - this is OK as I'll be going back down in a month.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Comberton, Cambridgeshire

Tucked well away from the main part of the village I was sure St Mary would be locked but to my delight found it open. The exterior is stunning - I will admit that the weather helped - but the interior is a revelation. As with most churches in this part of Cambridgeshire it was severely puritanised, probably following a visit by Dowsing, but retains an outstanding collection of C15th benches. It's plain, it's simple but is also outstanding.

Pevsner: ST MARY. E.E. chancel (one N lancet), W tower of the early c 14, S arcade and narrow S aisle probably also early c 14. (e.g. the S doorway and the renewed Dec windows). The piers are octagonal, the arches double-chamfered. The chancel arch goes with the S arcade. The N arcade on the other hand is a Perp alteration with four-centred arches. Nice N aisle roof. Late Perp windows. Perp clerestory. - ROOD SCREEN with four-light openings. The main arch is ogee with tracery above, sub-divided into two arches which are again subdivided. - BENCHES. Few poppy-heads - one showing a combat of knights. Ends, backs, and fronts traceried.

C15th Pews (2)

Poppyhead (1)

Poppyhead (5)


COMBERTON. Two items of underground news we came upon here: a buried Roman house and a playground under a playground. It was a wealthy Roman who built the house at Fox’s Bridge by the Bourn Brook, for it had a heated bath and must have been occupied for generations. Roman coins of 300 years were dug up in its foundations. A relic of a later time was the curious maze, one of the odd features of our countryside in medieval days, which was at least 400 years old when it was covered over by the school playground.

The old thatched cottages by the Tit Brook remain to make a pleasant picture, and away on the little hill by the fields an old church looks over the plain to the towers and spires of Cambridge. Its warm cobble walls stand out against its plastered 14th century tower, where the monk and the devil look from beside the west window. Four medieval folk look down inside the tower, two by the richly moulded arch. The many 15th century benches catch the eye with their traceried ends, and among their few worn poppyheads is one carved with lions and another with two men fighting. The medieval roof of the north aisle has carved beams, three old stalls and a new one have angels on them, and the rood stairs still lead to the top of the 15th century screen. The 700-year-old font has a Jacobean cover. A 13th century arch and a 14th century priest’s doorway open into the chancel, where are two lovely medieval windows with leaf tracery, one with fragments of old glass and at its side the smiling face of a lady of 600 years ago.

Barton, Cambridgeshire

St Peter plays host to a collection of rather dilapidated wallpaintings which, although very faded, still hold a wealth of interest. As well as the paintings there's a fine rood screen, a nice brass dating to 1593 and much else of interest, On top of that it's a lovely building in a fantastic location.

Pevsner is rather less enamoured: ST PETER. Of brown rubble, aisleless. The W tower E.E., the rest too much restored to be of particular interest. The window tracery, renewed correctly (see the Cole and Relhan drawings), points to the late c I3 and early c 14. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, with blank arcading of the stem and plain bowl. - ROOD SCREEN. Traces of colour on the dado. One light openings with thickly cusped and crocketed ogee arches and little tracery above. - PULPIT. Dated 1635. The tester (with pendants) preserved. The decoration of the bowl characteristic of the date, i.e. no longer Jacobean, and not yet classical. - WALL PAINTINGS. Too defaced to be a pleasure to the eye. N wall of nave above the doorway Weighing of the Souls. Also St Christopher, St Anthony and the Pig, St John and the Lamb. On the S wall Last Supper below another representation. Above the S door Annunciation. - BRASS John Martin d. 1593 and wife, 8 in. figures (Chancel floor).

John Martin 1593 (1)

Wallpainting  north wall

Wallpainting St George (2)

BARTON. It has in its 14th century church a very interesting collection of wall-paintings, long hidden under whitewash before they were uncovered a generation ago. They are simple pictures in red, some clear and others hard to make out, telling the stories of the Bible and the saints in the way medieval folk could understand. Adorning the south doorway is the Annunciation, and two scenes on the south wall show the Last Supper and what is thought to be the Baptism in Jordan, with bare legs showing in the water. Over the north door we see St Michael weighing a soul, with the kindly Virgin laying her rosary in the scale to help the poor sinner, while a demon sitting on the other scale is being attacked by a knight with a lance. Beside the doorway is Bishop Cantelupe who died in 1282 and was canonised as St Thomas of Hereford, and farther west is the Madonna crowned, with the Holy Child. John the Baptist is here with the Lamb in his upraised hand, and near him a horseman with birds and a dog; and there is a scene of St Anthony with his hog, reminding us that he was the patron saint of the Hospitallers, who, when others had to keep their pigs confined, had the privilege of letting theirs run loose with bells round their necks.

The oldest possessions of the church are a Norman piscina and a Norman font, the font framed by a beautiful tower arch. There is a fine canopied pulpit of 1635, a good Jacobean chair, and a 15th century screen rich with tracery, heraldry, and foliage. Two tiny brass portraits on the chancel floor show John Martin and his wife in Elizabethan costume.

Fragments of pottery found hereabouts take the story of Barton back to the New Stone Age. The Romans brought their Akeman Street this way, and where the Bourn Brook ripples by it about a mile away is a stretch of greensward where men who were to be archers at Crecy and Poitiers bent their bows in practice. It is a hundred yards wide and a third of a mile long, and in those days many villages had such a range as this.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Cherry Hinton. Cambridgeshire

St Andrew is glorious but hard to photograph properly; here's another church I'm uncertain about - both the exterior and interior contain much interest but at the same time much has been's the dilemma: the surviving gems refer to a much more interesting church, so is St Andrew less interesting than it was or is it interesting as it is?

Pevsner: ST ANDREW. A chancel of the noblest design - E.E. at its best, that is of c. 1230-50. Ashlar—faced. Tall coupled lancets along the sides, without any shafts, only separated pair after pair by buttresses. But in order to avoid any academic uniformity, a doorway with shafts and fine arch mouldings pushes up the sill of one pair. The E window, alas, was replaced in the Early Tudor decades by a five-light Perp window. The interior is, as it always should be (according for example to Inigo Jones’s view), far more lavish than the exterior. Here the windows have exceedingly tall shafts between, with shaftrings, and linked high up under the roof by cinquefoiled pointed arches with fine parallel mouldings (cf. Ely). The Sedilia have plain arches,  the Double Piscina trefoiled arches with dog-tooth ornament under one plain arch. The chancel arch is flanked by groups of five shafts, with fillets. The arch itself has mouldings with three quarter-circles. The arcades (five bays) between nave and aisles followed soon. Their piers are tall and consist of four strong shafts with fine diagonal shafts between, and arches of fine mouldings. The N and the richer S doorway belong to this phase. The S porch is Late Perp. The nave had a C15 clerestory, but this collapsed in I792. C15 also the (renewed) aisle windows. But the oldest element in the church has not so far been mentioned. It is the tower arch. From the outside the ashlar-faced tower appears all Late Perp. But the arch is I Norman, at least in its jambs, completely plain with one angle-shaft. On these jambs stands a four-centred Perp arch. - ROOD SCREEN. Dado with a frieze of open-work quatrefoils. One light divisions with depressed round arches and little tracery above. CI9 additions. - BENCHES. Four with poppyheads in the N aisle. - PAINTING. The Virgin with St Simon  Stock, Italian, 0 17. - MONUMENT. In the W wall of the tower coffin lid with bust of a man praying and foliations below.

Poppyhead (1)

Poppyhead (3)

 Glass (1)

CHERRY HINTON. The factory chimneys give place to orchards and elms as we draw near this cherry village with a church of chalk, strengthened outside with cobble and stone. It has a low tower, and a 15th century porch shelters a fine 13th century doorway, in which a medieval door with new tracery opens on a spacious interior where nearly everything is 700 years old - the stately arcades, the perfect chancel, the bowl of the font, the altar stone in the south aisle, and the rare coihn lid carved in relief with the head and shoulders of someone at prayer between two roses. The double shafts of the tower arch are even older though the arch itself is 15th century. So are the five benches with leafy poppyheads, and the oak chancel screen, much patched and with a new cornice.

Loveliest of all is the simple beauty of the chancel, a flawless gem from the 13th century, full of light, with side walls gracefully arcaded from stringcourse to roof, the arches framing elegant lancets in pairs.  There is a charming three-stepped sedilia, an exquisite piscina, and a fine little doorway for the priest. Except for the east window and a doorway altered in Tudor times, still with its ancient door, this chancel is as the builders left it 700 years ago.

There is a tablet in memory of Walter Serocold, who fell in action off Corsica in 1794, when the floating battery he commanded was burnt by redhot grapeshot. Admiral Hood wrote that the king had not a better young captain in his service.

Near by are the remains of an earthwork known as War Ditches, the site of a massacre of men, women, and children in prehistoric days, built over in later centuries by the Romans and the Britons.

Teversham, Cambridgeshire

On Tuesday I had a window of opportunity and visited Teversham, Cherry Hinton, Barton and Comberton - I rather ambitiously included Wimpole, Harlton and Hardwick (the latter two as re-visits) but ran out of time. When I've visited Wimpole and Royston, and fulfilled five re-visits, the north western quadrant of my circle will be complete.

All Saints rather surprised me by being lovely - I don't generally expect this from Cambridgeshire churches. As usual it's been rather beaten about and the exterior is better than the interior despite Sir Edward Styward's tomb.

I think Pevsner's rather sniffy:

Much E.E. work, much renewed, plus a W tower. E.E. the chancel, see one lancet on the N side, the S doorway into the aisle with two orders of columns carrying stiff-leaf capitals, and a finely moulded and partly keeled arch, and the arcade of three bays with short octagonal piers with upright stiff-leaf capitals. The capitals are dated by Miss Wynn-Reeves c. 1228-30. The NE and SE responds have instead curious long trumpet-shaped corbels covered diagonally with stiff-leaf branches. The nave went on to the W further than it does now. The W tower cut at least one half-bay. The arches have a moulding with two quarter-circles and start with broaches. Above, a very odd contemporary clerestory of oval or rather vesica-shaped windows standing above the spandrels and not the apexes of the arches. They now look into the aisles, and a higher clerestory was provided in the C19. The windows of Teversham church have been so thoroughly restored by St Aubyn in 1888-91 that it is difficult to say what is old and copied and what is new. Later C13 geometrical tracery, especially in the chancel E window (probably not original) and a S window. Other windows Dec looking. The main Perp contribution is the W tower with clasping buttresses and stepped battlements in the Suffolk tradition. Sedilia and Piscina in the chancel are also Perp and cut into a window with Dec tracery. - ROOD SCREEN. With single one-light divisions: ogee arches and panel tracery above. - PULPIT. From Cherry Hinton; Elizabethan or Jacobean. - STAINED GLASS. Some old parts in the W window. - MONUMENT. Sir Edward Styward d.1596 and wife. Alabaster; big tomb-chest with recumbent effigies of indifferent quality.

All Saints (3)

Gargoyle (2)

Sir Edward Styward (8)

TEVERSHAM. It is sheltered by trees and surrounded by great fields of the plain; from the trees a tower peeps out calling us to the little church it crowns. It stands in the place of one founded by a man who fell fighting the Danes. Its tower is 15th century, with the original painted roof with red and green shields and flowers. The  lovely 13th century arcades have delightful capitals at the east end shaped like a slender wineglass and carved with sprays of foliage.

The chancel is five and six centuries old, with beautiful seats for priests elaborately canopied. There is a tiny peephole in each pillar of the chancel arch, and across the arch is a 15th century oak screen.

The panelled roof above it all has bosses of flowers and a cornice of angels wearing crowns and holding ribbons. There is a fine Jacobean pulpit, a plain old font, and a medley of old glass in the west window.

The battered figures of Sir Edward Styward and his wife lie on a table tomb, he in chased armour as he would be seen in Charles Stuart’s day, she in a ruff, a gown with a hooped skirt, and a bonnet. They lived through the exciting years of the Civil War.

Long, long, before them men were fighting here for their existence, for life went on at Teversham in prehistoric days. Even before man and the woolly rhinoceros came to it Time bequeathed to this place some witness of life, for in the gravel men have found fossils of shell fish long extinct in England.


Thursday, 22 March 2012

Chesterton, Cambridgeshire

Arguments abound whether Chesterton is a suburb of Cambridge (technically it is) but I'm treating it as if it isn't - the same applies to Teversham and Cherry Hinton.

If I'm honest this was the best visit of the day, mainly because the sun was out and St Andrew gave so much. If the total number of photographs taken at a church reflects its quality St Andrew comes in high at 233 even though a large percentage of those pictures are of poppyheads.

Pevsner: In spite of the fact that Chesterton is administratively part of Cambridge, the church is still a village church in a village setting, away from the main trailic and with various old houses around. It is quite a large church, built principally of flint. Dec W tower with two-light bell-openings and a spire lit by two tiers of dormer windows. The stair turret is constructed in a very original fashion, half inside and half outside the W wall. Inside it is corbelled out on a lion-bracket. The tower arch is specially typical of the early c 14: steep arch on triple-shaft responds with very thin shafts in the diagonals and an arch-moulding with various quarter-circles. Nave and aisles embattled, N porch embattled and pinnacled. All the windows Perp. Chancel Perp, but much reconstructed in 1844. Charming Sedilia with small ribbed vaults inside the canopies. Indications of an earlier structure externally only in what is now the E ends of the aisles, but may have been transepts. Here the tracery is Dec. The arcades inside of seven bays also belong to the c 14, though they are no doubt later than the transept windows, as they do not take the existence of transepts into consideration. They have octagonal piers of no specially inspired proportions and arch mouldings with two quarter-circles. Chancel arch double-chamfered on semi-octagonal responds. Roofs on good stone-corbels, chancel original, nave more renewed. - PULPIT. Elizabethan. - BENCHES. With poppy-heads except for two which have standing figures of young men instead, clearly in the fashionable costume of c. 1420-30. - PAINTING. Doom, C15, above the chancel arch. It extends into the E bays of the clerestory.

Corbel (26)


Poppyhead (3)

Wallpainting (9)

St Andrew’s church belongs to Chesterton, the riverside village which has been swallowed up by Cambridge. But its fine old church remains from medieval days, with flint walls of the 14th and 15th centuries, gargoyles under the battlements, and a beautiful spire crowning a tower with a turret stairway half in and half out. Its fine 600-year-old arch opens on the impressive arcades of the nave, with their long line of seven bays on each side and the 15th century clerestory over them. The roofs are borne on angels and grotesques and women with draped headdresses, and there is a fine display of carving in the great array of benches, some old and some new. It is a veritable zoo, for we counted 144 animals on the armrests, including dogs, griffins, lions, and antelopes. On two old poppyheads are men in tasselled hats looking at each other across the nave, each with his fingers in his belt. They come from the time when Richard the First was king. On a poppyhead in the north aisle is a monk with a scourge. The low pulpit is Jacobean, the oak chancel screen is 18th century, the canopied sedilia and piscina are 15th. Above the chancel arch and continuing on the wall above the south arcade is a patch of a Doom painting with many clear figures of demons and people, one demon throwing a man into a grave. The churchyard wall has ancient coffin stones in its coping, and among the orchard trees by the vicarage are remains of a medieval building in which we found fragments of an ancient chancel screen. The old church has a new one to keep it company; it comes from last century, and has arcades with clustered piers and a few fragments of old glass. It is one of the finest of our modern churches, impressive in its simplicity, full of light and space, and with a stone statue of St George on the outer side of the west wall.


St Mary Magdalene, Cambridge

The Leper Chapel of St Mary Magdalene can only be described as astonishing, being an almost completely Norman building. Overcome with the excitement that the exterior was giving me I failed to notice that a keyholder is listed - I'm fairly sure the interior will disappoint but a re-visit is on the cards.

Pevsner: The church, which was originally the chapel of the Leper Hospital at Stourbridge, now stands desperately alone below the road and the railway approach. But visually unpromising as it is, its architectural value is high. It is one of the most complete and unspoilt pieces of Norman architecture in the county. The chapel consists of nave and straight-ended chancel. The chancel is ashlar-faced (Barnack stone?), the nave has exposed flint rubble with shafted stone quoins. The roof was renewed in the C15. The chancel was originally vaulted, see the shafts of c. 5 ft height in the corners and the traces of vaulting cells against the wall. The E window was put in in the C19, after 1819, when Cotman illustrated the building. It was then a stable. Restoration by Sir George Gilbert Scott 1867. Scott inserted the present W window, but the circular windows below are original. The other windows are roundheaded, very small - 7-8 in. their narrowest width between the splays - and enriched by nook shafts and several zigzags in the voussoirs. Other decorative enrichments are billet and similar friezes inside the nave. The most elaborate decoration is concentrated on the doorways (that on the N is bricked up) and the chancel arch. The N as well asS doorway has one order of columns and zigzag voussoirs, the chancel arch two orders to the W and one to the E. Again much zigzag. and capitals with scallops and decorated scallops.

The Leper Chapel of St Mary Magdalene (2)

The Leper Chapel of St Mary Magdalene (4)

The Leper Chapel of St Mary Magdalene (10)

St Mary Magdalene is the chapel of the old leper hospital, and though it looks forlorn, standing in a field below the road (at Stourbridge), the small aisleless building is full of interest. Restored by Sir Gilbert Scott, it is almost entirely 12th century. Though its walls of stone and cobbles are patched with brick, those of the chancel have been raised, and the oak roofs of open timbering are 15th century. The stout arch dividing the nave and chancel has shafts and zigzag ornament, and zigzag enriches the arch and hood of the south doorway. The stringcourse has carving like the teeth of a saw. The side windows have shafts and carved hoods, and there are two round windows at the west end.

I think this church deserves considerably more from both Mee and Pevsner - as I said it's astonishing and has to be one of the finest examples of Norman architecture in the county.


Abbey Church, Cambridge

Heading out of the centre of Cambridge to Chesterton I passed Abbey Church, or St Andrew the Less, unintentionally so illegally parked and went to have a look. Sadly the gates were chained (probably unsurprisingly given its location) and it's almost impossible to photograph properly when you've forgotten to bring your wide angle lens (it didn't occur to me to cross the road for a longer view).

Pevsner: Perhaps originally part of Barnwell Priory. Early C13 with lancet windows. The E window with shafts and moulded arch inside. Late C14 low-side-window in the chancel.

Abbey Church (3)

St Andrew the Less is an aisleless building of the 13th century on the Newmarket road at Barnwell. It has often been called the Abbey church, and a little to the north of it are scant remains of a monastery founded in the Conqueror’s day near Cambridge Castle, and moved a little later to Barnwell. The church has a nave and chancel under one roof, and a figure of St Andrew over the modem porch; the ruins have a small block roofed with tiles, with pillars and some windows in the walls, and there is a house built out of the materials of the priory.

St Mary the Less, Cambridge

St Mary is wonderful and feels like an ocean going liner. Large and light you feel like you are floating over Cambridge - so perhaps more like a Zeppelin than a liner.

Pevsner: This church, also known as Little St Mary, was originally called St Peter-without-Trumpington-Gate. It was appropriated to Peterhouse when this earliest of Cambridge Colleges was founded, and Peterhouse received its name from it. It served as the college chapel until 1632. The church goes back to the C12, as one fragment built into the tower, and now visible inside the porch, can prove. It has some Norman zigzag running up and continuing in a shaft. The remaining fragment of this tower, which is older than the rest of the church, is of flint work. The church itself was in course of rebuilding in 1340 and consecrated in 1352. It is aisleless and has no structural division between nave and chancel.Certain irregularities in the W buttresses have suggested that the whole of the present church may have been meant as the chancel of a larger collegiate church, much as is the situation at Merton College Oxford. The room is well lit from a six-light E window (with niches l. and r. whose nodding ogee heads carry tall canopies and tall four-light N and S windows (N windows re-traceried in 1857). All arches are two-centred and all tracery is still entirely Dec. So the Perp style had not yet entered Cambridge. The tracery has plenty of ogee forms, daggers and mouchettes, but none of the excesses of leaf-like shapes as East Anglia liked them and as they are reflected at St Michael’s Church. The style at Little St Mary is clearly derived from Ely work of the second quarter of the century. The vaulted Sedilia and Piscina are sadly mutilated. The church was originally entered from the SE through a porch and an ante-chamber between it and the college. E of the antechamber lay the vestry. In the late C15 an upper storey was built over vestry and antechamber, and a gallery over the porch to give direct access to the college. The staircase from the ground floor to the upper floor survives. - In the N and S walls of the church are the remains of two CHANTRY CHAPELS founded in the C15. It is not exactly known whom they were for, but presumably the N opening led into the chantry of Thomas Lane, Master of Peterhouse, which was consecrated in 1443, and that on the S into the chantry of John Warkworth, Master of Peterhouse, which was consecrated in 1487. Both chantries have a wide four-centred opening with complex cusping and a small door, also with a four-centred top, by its side. Beyond these openings there is nothing visible now of the interiors of the chantries. - FONT. Perp, octagonal, with shields. The cover, ogee-domed with arabesques, is of 1632. - PULPIT. 1741, with sounding-board and some pretty inlay. -  STAINED GLASS. E window upper parts by Kempe, 1892 (1887?). - MONUMENTS. Fragments of two Late Anglo-Saxon grave covers in the Vestry. - BRASSES. John Holdbrook d.1436. - Man in doctor’s gown, c. 1480.

Nave looking east

Window (2)

Window (5)

The church of St Mary the  Less has a gallery still connecting it with Peterhouse, that earliest of Cambridge colleges to which the church gave a name, serving as its chapel till 1632. It was as St Peter’s that the church was dedicated in the 12th century, and its new name came with its rebuilding in the 14th. Restoration last century included the east window, notable for the charming tracery above its six lights. The upper portion of its Kempe glass is in memory of James Hamblin Smith; the armorial panels below are a tribute to John Willis Clark, the Cambridge antiquarian, who was churchwarden here. There are coloured figures of St Mary and St Peter in niches on each side of the window. The best glass is the gallery of saints in the south windows; designed by Mr F. C. Eden, and shining on a clear ground,the figures are Stephen, Martin, Teresa, Nicholas, Francis, Monica, Andrew, and Elizabeth of Hungary.

There are traces of the Norman church in the modern north-west porch and an ancient mass dial on the walls. The old font has a cover in which new carving has been blended with the old. The oak pulpit and its sounding board were made in 1741; but inlaid are radiating strips of mahogany which was then coming into the hands of the wood carvers, and destined in the hands of Chippendale and his contemporaries to oust oak and walnut for furniture. On the site of one of the chantries founded by 15th century Masters of Peterhouse, a chapel has lately been built, entered by the original arch. There are two 15th century brasses, one of John Holbrook, Master of Peterhouse, and a memorial to Matthew Wren, uncle of Sir Christopher. Richard Crashaw the poet was vicar here in 1639, but better known to many, because of his monument, is Godfrey Washington, vicar from 1705 till 1729. Over the inscription is a shield with bars across and stars above, and over a coronet an eagle. The resemblance to America’s stars and stripes and bird of freedom is unmistakable, and many Americans come to see what they believe to be the memorial to the great-uncle of George Washington.

St Botolph, Cambridge

To begin with I disliked St Botolph but as I perambulated the church it grew on me. It is very stripped down but light and tranquil, like many Cambridgeshire churches it's not quite my cup of tea but I liked it.

Pevsner: The church is known to have been in existence c. 1200; but nothing earlier than the C14 remains. The W tower with four diagonally projecting angle buttresses surmounted by four figures comes out into the street. It dates from c. 1400. The body of the church is essentially early c 14. The arcade has five bays with tall octagonal piers and moulded capitals and two-centred arches. The arch moulding consists of a chamfered inner part and more complex outer parts. The tall tower arch with its finely detailed responds is characteristically later. About the middle of the  C15 the S Porch and S Chapel were added. The porch had originally an upper storey. The staircase up to it can still be traced. At the same time the aisle windows were renewed. They have very depressed pointed arches with almost straight sides. - Roofs of nave, S chapel and chancel are original, the W window is of 1841, the chancel was rebuilt by Badley in 1872. - Rood screen C15 three one-light divisions l. and r. of entrance, above their arches a row of small openwork Perp panels.- BENCH-ENDS. In S Chapel, with poppyheads. - FONT. Surrounded in 1637 by an octagonal casing. The cover is quite spectacular, square and open with very slim angle columns. - STAINED GLASS. N aisle E window by Kempe, 1889.- — MONUMENTS to Dr Thomas Plaifer D.1609, an absurdly bad example of the same type as the Butler Monument in St Mary; frontal demi-figure in niche with obelisks to the sides and achievement on top. - Against the outer S wall of the Chancel tablet to Robert Grumbold, the mason, d.1720, very modest and conservative. In the churchyard a curious octagonal structure in the Perp style. It may have been the covering of a well.

Nave looking east


Thomas Plaifere 1609 (2)

St Botolph’s church stands near the site of the old Trumpington Gate. Nothing is left of the Saxon church before it; of the Norman one are left fragments in the walls of the tower, and two capitals built into the nave pillars. From about 1320 come the nave (roofed with old tiles), the lofty arcades, and the aisles, though their windows are 15th century. The tower is 500 years old with a 19th century west window; the south porch and the chapel joining it are 15th century; and the chancel is 19th. The tower has massive buttresses, an old sundial, and a rare ring of four medieval bells, cast by John Danyell about 1460. It is one of the few towers keeping four bells that were ringing at the Reformation, made at one time by the same founder and still unaltered. Having served as a vestry for three centuries, the chapel is now furnished as a memorial to those who fell in the Great War; its 14th century east window shines with beautiful glass showing two knights. There are old stalls enriched with linenfold and fleur-de-lys poppyheads, and here too is a monument with the quaint figure of Thomas Plaifere of 1609, holding a book; he was Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity.

There are old moulded beams in the north aisle and the chapel, an ironbound chest with two big padlocks, and an old carved panel from Nuremberg showing the Betrayal, with a little church perched on a cliff for background. The medieval screen is much restored and has on it modern paintings of the Annunciation. The ancient font is hidden in a wooden case of the 17th century, its four pillars supporting the canopy, painted green and gold.

St Bene't, Cambridge

St Bene't is absolutely the best of the Cambridge churches despite the fact that the venerable Simon Jenkins, bizarrely, overlooks it.

Pevsner: The oldest church in the town and the county. The tower is visibly Anglo-Saxon, but the corner of the originally aisleless nave and some walling of the chancel also remain. The tower is of three stages, each a little narrower than the one below. The long-and-short work of the quoins is eminently characteristic. The bell-stage has its original twin openings, with a short turned baluster carrying a big corbel to connect the diameter of the baluster with the thickness of the wall. The date of the Saxon work is uncertain, but some date between 950 and 1050 seems most probable. The round-headed openings on the bell-stage were put in only in 1586. Inside, the arch into the tower is completely preserved, a very valuable relic. It shows two things, both historically significant: that the masons had a notion of the construction and detailing of arches in Germany or France, and that their notion was vague and superficial. The cornice or entablature especially is obviously a rendering of something more correct by men to whom the logic of such a member meant nothing. The same is true of the weird idea of making the jambs of long-and-short work but placing a demi-shaft and a demi-pillar to the left and right of the arch. The arch mouldings moreover do not continue what goes on below, but rest on two barbaric beasts or monsters. The E face of the arch inside the tower is almost identical with the W face. Above the arch is a Saxon opening which originally may have led into the roof. In the C13 some rebuilding took place in the chancel; see the deeply splayed lancet windows (one blocked) on the S side. - The nave and aisles were rebuilt c. 1300. The arcade has quatrefoil piers with attached shafts in the diagonals and moulded capitals to the main shafts, whereas the diagonal ones run straight up to the abaci. The arches are two-centred and double-chamfered. Most of the outer walls date from the C19. The clerestory, however, is original Late Perp work.- SEDILIA AND PISCINA in the usual position, C14, with big ogee arches, not well preserved. - MONUMENTS. Brass to R. Billingford, Master of Corpus Christi College and Chancellor of the University d.1432, small figure, kneeling in profile; the big scroll above his head is missing.


Tower arch

Tower arch grotesque

St Benedict’s is the oldest church in the town; indeed Cambridge has no older building than this, for its story takes us back nearly a thousand years. The fine tower of three stages, one of the delightful peeps of the city, stands almost as it stood in Saxon days, with its walls of rubble, its long and short work, and belfry windows with baluster shafts. The round-headed windows at each side of these are said to be 16th century, and over them are blocks of stone pierced with round holes. The windows in the base of the tower are modern, but the fine leaning arch opening to the nave is Saxon, springing from imposts on which sit two quaint animals. In the tall window over the arch is a figure of St Benedict.

The plan of the nave and chapel is that of the Saxon church, but both were made almost new in the 13th century, when the arcades of pointed arches and clustered pillars were built. The Saxon cornerstones of the nave are still seen inside, and the south wall of the chancel is chiefly Saxon. There are small painted angels on the beams of the nave roof, and 18 gaily coloured figures, wearing crowns and holding shields, adorn the striking roof of the north aisle.

The church has an old ironbound chest and an iron fire-hook for dragging down burning thatch, an old altar stone by the vestry door, an early gravestone carved with a cross, and a small brass portrait of Richard Billingford of 1442, Master of Corpus Christi College.

With two chained books in a case are two Bibles, one of 1635, the other of 1611, given to the church a few years before he died by Thomas Hobson, the noted Cambridge carrier. He sleeps at the chancel, but has no memorial. A still more famous man, Fabian Stedman, the inventor of change ringing, was clerk of this parish about 1650. He was a printer who printed his changes on slips of paper and taught them to the bellringers in St Benedict’s Saxon tower. Every bellringer in England knows his name, for he it was who put the art of bellringing on a sure foundation. He is very nearly the patron saint of English ringers, and it was in St Benedict’s that he learned about bells. Therefore it is fitting that the bellringers have restored this old tower as his memorial. They gathered here one day in 1931 and rang from morn till dusk the very bells that Stedman rang, they having till then been long silent.

The blocked doorways to the structure on the south side of the chancel remind us that the church served as the chapel of Corpus Christi College till late in the 16th century. Built in early Tudor days, it consisted originally of chapels on the first floor, where the services in the choir could be witnessed by the Master and members of the college, connected by a gallery with the north range of the old court. Below the gallery was a covered passage. 

St Edward, Cambridge

St Edward is a little gem and one of my favourite Cambridge churches but I can't quite put my finger on why. I think it's a combination of location and interior.

Pevsner: The lower part of the W tower is c. 1200 (see the low tower arch inside and a deeply splayed S Window), the rest of the church essentially of c. 1400. Nave with four narrow little arcades with pretty piers and two-centred arches. The piers have thin semi-octagonal shafts with concave sides and with capitals and in the diagonals hollows which run uninterrupted into the arches. The arcades of the chancel lower than those of the nave and later in the design of piers and arches. These chancel aisles were added in 1446 to offer chapel space to Clare College and Trinity Hall. Both colleges had until then worshipped in St John Zachary, which church was pulled down to make way for the new King’s College. The windows were re-done in 1858 and again in 1946 (by Professor Richardson). The W door and Vestry are also c 19. - Good original chancel roof. - FONT. Perp, octagonal, With quatrefoils in circles on the sides of the bowl. The angles are carried by demi-figures of deacons. Shaft with blank tracery panels. - Pulpit. c. 1510, with linenfold panelling. - BRASSES. Heads of Knight and Lady, part of a large brass of c. 1400 - Woman in a shroud, c 17.

Either these two brasses are now gone or I missed them - Mee doesn't mention them so I assume they're 'lost'.

Owen Mayfield 1685 (2)

William Becke 1614 (6)


Three martyrs of the Reformation (Thomas Bilney, Robert Barnes, and Hugh Latimer), preached in the church of St Edward the King in the heart of the town, hemmed round with old houses and small shops. The plastered tower of diminishing stages is chiefly 13th century, with older masonry in the base. The nave and its aisles, divided by slender arches, and the pleasing chancel up three steps, are 14th century; the chancel aisles are 15th, and keep their old roofs. The tilting chancel arch is held by an iron bar. The old font has rich carving of tracery and flowers, with angels round the base. There is a fine bronze portrait plaque of Frederick Denison Maurice, vicar here for a short time till his death in 1872.

St Michael, Cambridge

As Pevsner says "A small extremely attractive church almost entirely of the early c14".

St Michael's nave is now a cafe and an exhibition space whilst the chancel and south, Hervey de Stanton, chapel are areas for reflection and prayer. Services are still held several times a week in the chancel.

This, to me, is a brilliant re-use of a redundant church; it's still fulfilling a role of bringing community together in the nave and offering worship in the chancel - what a genius way of keeping a church alive. It looks good too, although calling it Michaelhouse seems to me wrong even if it's named after the college.

ST MICHAEL, Trinity Street (A). A small extremely attractive church almost entirely of the early C14. It was appropriated to the newly founded Michaelhouse and rebuilt by its founder Hervey de Stanton. In 1327 he died and was buried in the chancel of the new, yet incomplete church. The church was restored by Scott. N porch and S doorway are by him. Otherwise the building remains essentially original. The W tower is of flintwork with stone quoins and irregular buttresses. It stands S of the nave at the W end of the S aisle. The windows have all flowing tracery, those on the N and S very simple two-light designs, but W and E more elaborate. Both the latter have four-centred arches. The nave has N and S aisles. The N aisle is two bays long, that on the S, owing to the tower, only one. The piers are octagonal, the capitals moulded, the arches two-centred. The chancel arch is taller than the nave arcades. The choir (for the use of the college) is three bays long. The architectural details are simpler here than in the nave. Two-bay chancel aisles accompany the chancel. Their arcade arches and the chancel arch have the same moulding as those of the nave arcades. E of the N chancel aisle is the original vestry, E of the S aisle presumably the Founder’s Chapel. A small squint connects this chapel with the chancel. It comes through the back of one of the seats of the Sedilia. These make a good composition with the Piscina: four crocketed ogee arches. To its W the opening into the S aisle and SE chapel is preserved in a mutilated state. It must originally have been a fine stone screen, embattled and with another tall ogee arch. The chapel itself in its E wall has to the l. and r. of the window diagonally placed niches for images. - STALLS. The collegiate choir has a set of thirty-six C15 stalls preserved; it is supposed to have come from Trinity College. - PAINTINGS. Large full-length portrait of Charles I. - Adoration of the Shepherds, by an English painter of c. 1800, it seems. - P LATE. Several pieces of c. 1820-40.

St Michael (1)

South chapel reredos

South chapel south window

St Michael’s is 14th century, and was built as the chapel for Michaelhouse, the college absorbed in Trinity by Henry the Eighth. We see it still as the 14th century building which accommodated both college and parish, one of its five bays the chancel, two the choir, two the nave for the parishioners, their lofty arcades opening on each side into the aisles. There is a fine little pinnacled archway which was probably part of a stone screen, a piscina and sedilia with leafy canopies, medieval stalls, a medley of old glass, a picture of Charles Stuart reading a book (given to the church at the Restoration), an old painting of the Holy Family, and a print of Paul Fagius, one of the Forerunners of the Reformation, who was buried here with honour but dug up by Mary Tudor’s Commissioners, who burned his body in the marketplace. The founder of the church, Hervey de Staunton, has been sleeping here since 1327.


Great St Mary, Cambridge

The jury is out on St Mary: on the one hand I like the exterior and location in the market square but on the other I'm not sure about the interior - for a church of this size it's rather barren. I also liked the fact, although I didn't climb, that the tower is open (for a fee) and visitors can ascend and look across Cambridge.

I completely missed William Butler's monument and Martin Bucer's brass - I'm unclear as to how!

ST MARY-THE-GREAT. There was a church here in 1205, if not earlier. A fire is recorded in 1290, and a re-consecration of the High Altar in 1351. The walls of the Chancel belong to C13. The Sedilia are C19 but in imitation of original work there discovered. But for the chancel walls, nothing was allowed to remain, when rebuilding was decided on in 1478. We are well provided with dates for the rebuilding. The tower was begun in 1491, the chancel was in use in 1484, the nave roof finished in 1508, the bells hung in the (incomplete) tower in 1515, the Lady Chapel (now Vestry) was completed in 1522, the W window glazed in 1536. In 1575 a new W portal was made in the Elizabethan style. This was replaced by the present one (designed by Sir G. G. Scott) in 1851. The chancel was repaired and a new E window put in by Salvin in 1857. The S porch, a copy of the original one, dates from 1888. St Mary is designed on the pattern of the proudest East Anglian parish churches of the Late Perp style, such churches as Lavenham or Saffron Walden. It has large windows throughout, with four-centred heads, those of the ground floor with one transom. The aisle windows are of four lights, those of the clerestory of three, but double in number. The church is embattled, the battlements of the chancel, which is lower than the nave but higher than the aisles, being ornamented. The W tower has a top with polygonal turret pinnacles with openwork sides and straight tops. In spite of the Gothic appearance of this, it dates only from 1593-1608. The pinnacles ended at first in big balls. Impressive as the outside is, the INTERIOR is more splendid. Its effect depends on the five bays of nave and aisles with extremely tall slender shafts between, carrying two-centred arches high up, and the busy decoration of the spandrels and the zone between them and the clerestory windows. The piers have a section of four shafts and four hollows with some finer members in between to emphasize the many thin lines upward. The decoration in the spandrels, also those of the chancel arch, is of blank tracery. It is carried out in clunch throughout and was originally coloured. Also of clunch the panelled ceiling of the tower room. This opens with arches to the N and S into the aisles which run as far W as the W wall of the tower. Of further interior stone decoration the bands in the aisles below the windows and the two niches l. and r. of the E window may be mentioned. - The church has excellent contemporary roofs with very shallow four-centred transverse arch-beams. The nave roof has big bosses at the main points of intersection. A gift by Henry VII of timbers to the church is recorded for 1505. It is a fact well worth remembering that, when James Essex the Elder was asked in 1726 to repair this roof he rather built a supplementary roof above it and tied the old roof into the new - a very early case of preservation instead of restoration or replacement. William Morris would have congratulated Mr Essex. Galleries in the aisles were put in in 1735, it is said, by Gibbs. At the same time a gallery was placed on top of the Rood Screen with plenty of seats to house Masters and Doctors at University ceremonies. This so-called Throne was removed in 1863. - FURNISHINGS: FONT. Still entirely in the Perp tradition, although the date is 1632 and the ornament corresponds to that date. It has strapwork and typical thin leaf scrolls. The plain cover is of the same time. - BENCH-ENDS. Some original, with poppy-heads. - SCREEN. The chancel chapels are separated from the aisles by beautifully carved panels in two tiers, obviously Early Georgian. They are indeed made up of parts of the big three-decker pulpit of c. 1735 which the church originally possessed. - ORGAN. By Father Schmidt, 1697. - CHEST. Flemish, C15 with Flamboyant tracery; much restored. - STAINED GLASS. Chancel S and E by Hardman 1867 and 1869; Nave W end by Clayton & Bell; Clerestory 1892-1904 by Powell’s; NE Chapel 1922 by James Hogan of Powell’s. - PLATE. Two Almsdishes of 1681. Maker’s mark EG. - MONUMENTS. William Butler, famous physician d. 1618, alabaster, with frontal demi-figure in niche, putti and two obelisks on the sides, achievement on top; good quality London work. - R. Booth Campbell Brown d. 1893, brass tablet by Paton Watson in the Arts and Crafts style.

Great St Mary (3)

Nave looking east


Cambridge has a group of churches well worthy of the traveller’s attention. It will be convenient to visit them before going the round of the University and its colleges. We take 17 of the churches, beginning with the University church of Great St Mary.

Fringed with trees and bordered with lawn, St Mary’s is a fine building in a splendid setting, befitting its rank as the University church. With its great turreted tower of gleaming stone rising high above embattled walls, it has the busy marketplace on one hand, and on the other the majestic group of Caius College, the Senate House, the Old Schools, and King’s Chapel.

It comes chiefly from rebuilding on older foundations between 1478 and 1608. Though the chancel is partly 14th century, the aisle windows are 18th century (when the galleries designed by James Gibbs were erected), and the south porch was made new in the 19th. The nave was completed by 1519, and the shields in the windows of the aisles are of those who helped its rebuilding, in response to the Proctors of the University who rode through England seeking contributions. Carved in stone below these windows are the pelican of Edward the Fourth, crowns for Henry the Seventh, and plumes for Henry the Eighth as Prince of Wales. Among the stone corbels supporting the roofs of the aisles are a white hart, an angel, a jester with a bauble, a cock with a scroll, and another cock attacked by a fox, alluding to Bishop Alcock of Ely.

The nave is striking with its lofty arcades of delicately moulded arches, their spandrels filled with tracery below a band of quatrefoils. Similar carving is over the chancel arch. The clerestory is a splendid lantern of richly glowing glass (by Powell) in the long lines of ten three-light windows on each side, illustrating the Te Deum. In this gallery of 60 figures, with saints and apostles, are portraits of Dr Hort, Bishop Lightfoot and Bishop Westcott, Dr Arnold, F. D. Maurice, and Dean Stanley. The best of the fine old roofs is the nave’s, supported on arches which spring from between the clerestory windows; bosses adorn the ridge and angels the wall-plates. There are several Jacobean benches with foliage poppyheads, and the screens in the aisles are 1640. The stalls and the rest of the benches are 19th century; the font, with flowers and cherubs, is 1632.

The earlier work in the chancel is seen in remains of an arch high in the south wall, a fine double piscina, and a priest’s seat. In the rich sculpture of the 19th century reredos are the Crucifixion with Mary and John, Samuel in the School of the Prophets, and Paul preaching at Athens. A floor brass tells of the reformer Martin Bucer, who was buried here in 1551, though his body was taken up in 1557 and burned in the marketplace. A wall-monument has the figure of William Butler of Clare Hall, a noted physician who died in 1618; he wears a ruff, and has his hands on a book and a skull. A beautiful chest is 15th century, and in the Tudor south doorway, adorned with the rose and portcullis, hangs an old panelled door.

The north chapel has a roof-corbel showing an ape blessing a chalice, and a stringcourse with the Bourchier and Stafford knots. Here are war flags which flew over Cambridge Military Hospital near Boulogne, and a lectern made from wreckage on the shore for use in the hospital chapel. Two windows here have more Powell glass, one with four saints and pictures of Latimer by a fire, Isaac Barrow with St John’s College for a background, Thomas Bray, and Bishop Berkeley. The east window has the Crucifixion and Our Lord Risen, our four patron saints, and pictures of Rheims Cathedral, the Sphinx, Mesopotamia, and the landing at Gallipoli. Except for its modern west doorway the tower is 16th century. On its peal of twelve bells are sounded the Cambridge Quarter Chimes. Curfew is tolled every evening on the great bell.

St Andrew the Great, Cambridge

Nestled in front of the Lion Yard shopping centre sits St Andrew and, to be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about it. It's a rather good Victorian church but feels a bit clinical and the location is horrid. The church was open but a toddler session was ongoing so I didn't get inside which is a shame as I would have liked to have seen the Cook memorial and the iron piers.

Pevsner says: ST ANDREW THE GREAT, St Andrew Street: 1842-3 by Ambrose Poynter who built also Christ Church, Newmarket Road, and St Paul, Hills Road. St Andrew is an eminently characteristic example of its date, with very tall octagonal cast-iron piers supporting four-centred arches high up, and with timber galleries between the piers on N, S, and W. No clerestory. - SCULPTURE. A few CI3 fragments from Barnwell Priory, a crocket capital, part of an arch or rib. - PLATE. Chalice with Cover Paten; inscribed 1569. Mark on the chalice IV over a heart, in a shield. - Flagon and Almsdish, 1732-3. Maker’s mark RB.  - Several pieces of 1845.

St Andrew the Great (2)

The church of St Andrew the Great is the third that has faced Christ’s College in the last three centuries. In its walls are a few stones from Barnwell Priory, but the interest of the church is chiefly in a monument on the wall in honour of a man to whom every English boy should raise his cap. On this monument are the names of Captain Cook, his wife, and their six children, two of whom sleep with their mother in the middle aisle of the church. Captain Cook’s wife, who set up this monument, was surely as lonely a mother as children ever had. She was Elizabeth Batts when she stood as a girl on the banks of the Thames to welcome back the victors from the Plains of Abraham. Wolfe had died but James Cook came back, and in three years he was married to Elizabeth Batts. They had six children, of whom three died as babies. When Captain Cook returned from his second voyage round the world his two eldest boys, James and Nathaniel, were longing to join the navy, and did so; just before he set out again the little baby Hugh was born. He was all Elizabeth had to comfort her when Captain Cook had sailed again; three babies had died, two boys were at sea, and little Hugh was growing up. It was in 1776 that they said Goodbye, but it was not till 1780 that news came to England of Captain C0ok’s death 20 months before. News travelled slowly then. The stricken Elizabeth was to survive him for 56 years, years of great sorrow to her, for she outlived all her children. Within 16 years of their father’s death his three sons died, and their mother was to be alone for 40 years. Nathaniel was lost serving as a middy in the West Indies in the same month as the news of the death of his father came. Hugh was growing up as a scholar at Christ’s College, and on the anniversary of her wedding this young scholar died. His mother and his brother James came to his funeral in St Andrew’s, and here within another week or two the mother was again, this time alone, laying James beside Hugh, for he had been drowned in a high sea. The poor mother set up this memorial, with a relief of the globe and the names of all her children on it, and for 40 years more she lived alone and was then laid to rest with these two boys, she being 94 years old.

Holy Trinity, Cambridge

Holy Trinity, despite being in the heart of Cambridge within spitting distance of all the other churches which are kept open and a sign declaring "Come to Christ, Learn to Live and Love to Learn", is locked, which seemed to me rather strange. I rather like the exterior and would have loved to have a nosey inside.

Pevsner: The first Holy Trinity was destroyed by fire in 1174. The lower parts of the present tower may be c 13. It opens by tall and narrow double-chamfered arches to the N and S. The E tower-arch has a less elementary moulding. The nave arcades are C14 piers with four attached shafts and four hollows in the diagonals; moulded capitals;
double-chamfered arches. The aisles run on to the W l. and r. of the tower which had or that reason to be buttressed. The buttresses towards the nave are panelled. Transepts and clerestory were added in the later C15. The transepts are very light with big two-centred six-light windows and two tiers of windows on the E and W sides. The lower of these are of four lights and two-centred, the upper tier are of three lights and four-centred. The rhythm of two windows below to three above to one on the show sides is refreshing. Early in the C16 the S aisle of the church was widened and new windows put in. The ceilings of transepts and nave are excellent original work with very flat four-centred transverse arches. The chancel was rebuilt in 1834 and re-decorated by Badley in 1885. The spire was rebuilt in 1901.

Do I like it - I think not since it's ludicrously locked.

Holy Trinity

The tower and spire of Holy Trinity, rising over the busiest part of the town, belong to a church which has been greatly changed since its 13th century days. The aisles were added in the 14th century; from the 15th come the transepts, the clerestory, and the north porch; and the chancel is modern. It is lofty and light with walls seeming to be all windows, the beautiful glass in one of them showing Moses, Elisha, and the disciples healing. Its striking feature is the west end, where the tower, standing in the nave, is supported by two flying buttresses to the slender 14th century arcades, and by two great panelled buttresses which reach the fine old roof. This is 15th century, the time of the roofs of the transepts and the north aisle. There are three 700-year-old arches in the 13th century tower, the oldest portion of the church.

There is a memorial to Sir Robert Tabor, who has been sleeping here since 1681; a famous physician, he perfected the cure of ague by the use of quinine, two of his royal patients being Charles the Second and the Dauphin.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

All Saints, Cambridge

All Saints is another CCT church; saved from being demolished because of the wealth of William Morris d├ęcor but I just don't get it and this is strange since I love the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

The original building was opposite St John's College but was demolished in the 1860's and rebuilt opposites Jesus College.It is unusual in that it has an east tower and a Pre-Raphaelite east window with glass by Morris, Burne-Jones and Ford Maddox Brown but I found it, perhaps because it was overcast, rather dark, gloomy and antiseptic.

Pevsner puts it better: The interior also tall, of an earnest spirit, not at all showy or fanciful. Bodley called Morris in for the decoration, and indeed the walls have Morris stencilling in various sombre colours, the ceilings are charmingly, though quietly decorated by Morris. The chancel has Minton’s encaustic tiles, the E window famous STAINED GLASS by Morris & Co. Its date is I864-6. It is surprisingly light in its general appearance, owing to the fact that the individual figures which had one panel each to themselves are surrounded by plenty of clear glass, by Burne-Jones (then only about 30 years old), except for four by Morris himself (bottom tier r., bottom but one l., centre r.) and four by Ford Madox Brown (top tier two and four, second tier two and four).

All Saints (3)

Nave & south aisle looking east (1)

East window

All Saints church, facing Jesus College, with Westcott House (a clergy training school) for a neighbour, was built last century from designs by Mr Bodley, and has a fine tower with a graceful spire, a nave and aisle of equal size divided by a lofty arcade, and a 15th century font from the old church which it replaced, In the pleasant enclosure marking the site of the old graveyard (opposite St John’s College), an elegant memorial cross was set up in 1880, enriched with niches and dainty tracery, and serving also as a tribute to literary men, benefactors, and other folk associated with the town. Among the many names on the cross is that of Henry Kirke White, the young Nottingham poet who died and was buried at St John’s in 1806. The east window (by William Morris, Burne-Jones, and Ford Madox Brown) has Adam and Eve and a score of saints, prophets, and martyrs. In a nave window we see George Herbert in front of Trinity College, with a picture of Bemerton church where he was buried in 1633; Bishop Westcott of Durham, showing him bringing together master and man in the great coal strike of 1892; and Henry Martyn translating the New Testament into Persian. The first Cambridge missionary to India, Martyn died at Tokat in 1812.

In a marble panel, sculptured in low relief, Herbert Mortimer Luckock kneels at a desk: he was vicar here and Dean of Lichfield. On the brass plate with the list of vicars are engravings of the old church and the new.


Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Holy Sepulchre, Cambridge

A Norman round church with aisles; what's not to love apart from the aisles?

The round part of the church was built in about 1130 by the fraternity of the Holy Sepulchre. They were evidently influenced by the round church in Jerusalem called the Church of the Holy Sepulchre built by the Roman Emperor Constantine in the C4th. Most churches in Western Europe are cross-shaped in their floor plan and in England there are only four other round churches like this one. They were all built following the First Crusade in 1097. The round shape is thought to celebrate the resurrection, as Constantine’s church in Jerusalem was built on the supposed site of Jesus’ tomb and resurrection.

Initially, the church was a wayfarers chapel serving the main road then it became a normal parish church in the C13th with a proper chancel and a north aisle.

A heavy Gothic tower, built over the round nave in the C15th, caused a partial collapse in the round ambulatory in 1841. During the extensive Victorian repair and restoration it was replaced by the conical spire you see today. This was a desire to be faithful to the nave’s Norman origin. The south aisle and bell tower were also added and the whole east wall rebuilt.

Despite the restoration the round church still feels authentic and is truly beautiful.

Pevsner says: It is wholly Norman, though unfortunately severely restored in 1841. In the W doorway with its three orders of colonnettes with scalloped capitals and zigzags and crenellations in the arch voussoirs, Atkinson says, ‘there is not one old stone left’. The windows also are renewed throughout. The interior has eight thick short round piers with many scalloped strip-capitals, a gallery with twin openings and above this vaulting-shafts carrying a ribbed octopartite dome. These top parts are rebuilt. They replace a C15 battlemented bell-storey. The most interesting part architecturally is the ambulatory. It is rib-vaulted, with ribs of unmoulded rectangular section except in the E bay and that to the r. of this. These two have zigzag mouldings l and r of a roll-moulding. E (ritually speaking) of the round structure is a two-bay chancel with N and S aisles of equal width, the whole wider than the diameter of the Norman church. This E end belongs almost entirely to 1841, though it is said that E.E. work was then found in the N aisle N and W walls and the chancel E wall. C15 remodelling may still appear in the piers and arches between ambulatory and chancel, and chancel and chancel aisles. Good C15 roof in the N aisle on angel supports.

One of the two Norman round churches in England I've visited - St John the Baptist, Little Maplestead in Essex being the other (there are four in total, Temple in London and Holy Sepulchre in Northampton being the other two). Holy Sepulchre is more elaborate than St John and the two make an interesting comparison.

Note to self: visit the other two.

Holy Sepulchre (2)

Corbel (8)


Most famous of all the churches of Cambridge is the church of the Holy Sepulchre. Compelling in its modesty compared with the great pile of St John’s Chapel over the way, it is unusual outside and striking within, and has its own fame as one of the few round churches of our land - four still in use, and one at Ludlow Castle in ruin. Like those at Ludlow and Northampton, it is thought to have been built not later than 1140, and was modelled on the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. It was at first only the nave surrounded by the vaulted aisle and a small chancel, perhaps with an apse, where the altar stood. Over the round arcade, its eight massive pillars and capitals with simple carving, was the beautiful triforium, its wide arches on short pillars framing smaller ones. Above the triforium was the clerestory, giving on to the vaulted roof. Alterations in the 15th century included the rebuilding of the 14th century chancel and its north aisle, the raising of the nave walls to make an eight sided belfry, the insertion of new windows, and the replacing of some of the round arches by pointed ones. So it stood till the great restoration of 1841, when the Round was given its original 12th century appearance. The belfry gave place to a roof resembling the conical one of the Normans, and a bell turret was added at the corner of the north aisle which was lengthened eastward to be in line with the chancel. The fine west doorway, with zigzag ornament and six shafts, is chiefly new. It is interesting to walk slowly round the ambulatory (the aisle of the Round) and catch glimpses of the carved heads peeping from the walls between the piers. There are seven heads round the aisle and eight more inside the nave, all vivid and striking, and all different.