Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Snailwell, Cambridgeshire

St Peter is one of two round tower churches in Cambridgeshire - the other being Bartlow - and gives the impression that it is open with a sign saying "Please do go in and feel free to browse" but when I arrived at lunchtime yesterday it was locked. There is, however, a keyholder's phone number listed in the porch but, naturally, I didn't have my phone with me. I'll have to revisit.

I've been back twice since my first visit and found it open last week (Jul 14). It's a disappointing interior with the exception of the nave hammerbeam roof with angels - which I failed to record as I was in a hurry to get home...I'll try again next time I'm up this way.

ST PETER. With one of the only two round towers of Cambridgeshire (cf. Bartlow). The Snailwell tower is Norman throughout, of flint and pebble rubble as is the rest of the church too. Tall short nave with clerestory, lower chancel. Externally much renewed (by Rowe 1878). The chancel and S aisle E.E. (lancet windows), the N aisle early C 14. At that time also some of the chancel lancets were given Dec tracery (windows, especially the very handsome E window, internally shafted and with head-corbels for the hood-mould). C14 arcade of three bays with octagonal piers and double-chamfered arches. Chancel arch and window of 1878. - Perp clerestory and hammerbeam roof. Alternately the hammerbeams rest on the usual arched braces, and come out of the wall without them. In the latter case they have figures against their undersides. - ROOD SCREEN. With single-light divisions, ogee arches and little tracery above them. The finial of the doorway arch reaches above the cornice. - PARCLOSE SCREEN. With handsome cusped ogee-arches and very closely set panel tracery above. - SCULPTURE. Elaborately foliated E.E. cross sunk in a spandrel of the S arcade. - MONUMENT. Low tomb-chest with quatrefoil decoration in a recess in the chancel N wall. Cusped and crocketed ogee-arch with pinnacles l. and r.

St Peter (2)

SNAILWELL. From a dark pool here the Snail creeps forth to become a sluggish river winding to the fens. The pretty little village dreams among fine trees, elms and chestnuts shading the tiny green and keeping company with the creepered walls and rose-bowered porch of the church.

A very curious thing we found in this small shrine of St Peter, a tiny jewelled box on the altar with a few grains of sand in it from Jerusalem. On the wall also hang four Great War medals of Sir Kildare Borrowes, whose brother was vicar here.

The church has one of the two Norman round towers in the county, just topping the high-pitched roof of the nave. The rest of the church comes from the 14th century, but it has been much restored. There are two medieval oak screens, pews with old poppyheads, a 600-year-old font, a jumble of old glass in the modern porch, and a lovely old relic of stone carving set above an arch; it is a stone cross delicately pierced and set in a roundel. The beautiful hammerbeam roof has three rows of carving in its wall-plate, and on the ends of the beams are six old wooden figures, three bishops and three men with shields. A medieval gravestone in the churchyard is that of a 15th century priest. It was found in the wall of the church. On the wall is a memorial to James Baker, who was clerk for 50 years.

From this small place William Flower went out to die for his i faith in 1555; he was martyred in St Margaret’s churchyard, Westminster. It was a bitter sight, for, his hand having been struck off at the stake, he was then knocked down into the fire, there not being enough faggots to burn him.

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