Tuesday, 28 April 2020

A lockdown ‘virtual
tour’ of a dozen
Cambridge churches

Welcome to the churches of Cambridge … the porch at Saint Bene’t’s Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

In my present state of semi-cocooning, due to the present Covid-19 pandemic restrictions and my pulmonary sarcoidosis, I have been offering a number of ‘virtual tours’ in recent weeks, including a dozen Wren churches and ten former Wren churches in London, a dozen churches, pubs and former pubs in Lichfield, a dozen churches and restaurants in Rethymnon, a dozen churches in other parts of Crete, a dozen monasteries in Crete and on Mount Athos, a dozen historic sites in Athens and in Thessaloniki, and a dozen churches and a dozen Jewish sites in Thessaloniki.

The way travel restrictions are being extended and my travel plans are being cancelled one after another, this may yet be the first year in many that I have not visited Cambridge. So, this evening I am offering another ‘virtual tour’ – a ‘virtual tour’ of more than a dozen churches in Cambridge, following on last night’s ‘virtual tour’ of more than a dozen college chapels in Cambridge.

For many years, I was a student at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, during the courses offered by the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies. I and stayed in rooms in Sidney Sussex all those years, and we used the chapel for prayers twice a day.

But, during that time, I appreciated Saint Bene’t’s Church, just a five-minute walk away, which effectively became my parish church while I was on study leave in Cambridge. In addition, I also went to church on occasion in both Great Saint Mary’s Church and in Little Saint Mary’s Church.br />
So, this evening’s ‘virtual tour’ is just a sample of the churches, apart from college chapels, that I got to know in Cambridge over these years.

1, Saint Bene’t’s Church, Bene’t Street:

Saint Bene’t’s Church dates back a millennium to 1020 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

I skipped out of Sidney Sussex most mornings to attend the Daily Eucharist at 8 a.m. in Saint Bene’t’s, a short walk away at the corner of Bene’t Street and Free School Lane.

Tucked into a corner of Corpus Christi College, Saint Bene’t’s is a beautiful and ancient church, appreciated by many for its history and architecture. The name of the church may have inspired the setting for Susan Howatch’s Saint Benet’s Trilogy – although the three novels are is set in the fictional Saint Benet’s Church in London in the 1980s and 1990s.

This church is an oasis of calm in the middle of the university and the city, and there is something special and something deeply spiritual about Saint Bene’t’s, an ancient parish church.

This the oldest building in Cambridgeshire and has been a place of Christian worship for 1,000 years. This is an Anglo-Saxon foundation dating from ca 1020, when Canute was King of England. The church is dedicated to Saint Benedict, yet, despite of its name, Saint Bene’t’s was never a monastic place of worship, and has been a parish church from the very beginning.

Inside Saint Bene’t’s Church, the oldest building in Cambridgeshire (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Saxon tower was probably completed around 1033. The arcading separating the nave and the south aisle dates from around 1300. To the south or right of the altar, are two curved ogee arched recesses dating from the 14th century. One arch holds the sedilia or seating for the clergy; the other arch once held the piscina or shallow basin for washing the sacred vessels and for disposing of water used sacramentally.

In 1352 the Guild of Corpus Christi, which met at Saint Bene’t’s, joined with the Guild of Saint Mary, which met at Great Saint Mary’s Church, the University Church, to found the College of Corpus Christi. For many decades after the foundation of Corpus Christi, the college had no chapel, and the members worshipped at Saint Bene’t’s Church. Saint Bene’t’s was used as the college chapel for many years and the two still have strong links.

Tiny peepholes in a wall at the east end of the south aisle indicate a 16th century staircase leading to an upper room. The staircase is now blocked off, and the upper room is part of Corpus Christi College.

‘The Passion,’ a sculpture by Enzo Plazzotta in Saint Bene’t’s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Since 1578, there have been 73 incumbents at St Bene’t’s and 52 of these have been members of Corpus Christi. Those former vicars include Michael Ramsey, who was here in 1938 and later became Archbishop of Canterbury. The church was staffed by Franciscans for 60 years from 1945 to 2005. A recent vicar was the theologian, writer and broadcaster, Canon Angela Tilby. The present vicar is the Revd Anna Matthews.

The church has an icon of Christ Pantocrator, an icon of Saint Benedict and Saint Francis given by the Franciscan brothers when they were leaving, a crucifix carved by a sister of the Community of Saint Clare, ‘The Passion,’ a modern sculpture by the Italian-born British sculptor, Enzo Plazzotta (1921-1981), and is about to dedicate a new icon of Saint Anne by Aidan Hart.

2, Great Saint Mary’s, the University Church, King’s Parade:

Great Saint Mary’s on King’s Parade is the University Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Cambridge is part of the Diocese of Ely and so, unlike Oxford, has no cathedral. But Saint Mary the Great is the parish and university church. It is known locally as Great Saint Mary’s or simply GSM to distinguish it from ‘Little St Mary’s,’ and is one of the ‘Greater Churches’ or part of the ‘Greater Churches’ network in the Church of England.

As the university church, Great Saint Mary’s its own role in the life of the university. University officers must live within 20 miles of Great Saint Mary’s and undergraduates within three miles. The church hosts the University Sermons and holds the University Organ and the University Clock.

Inside Great Saint Mary’s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The first church on the site was built in 1205, was mostly destroyed by fire in 1290 and rebuilt. The present church was built between 1478 and 1519, with the tower was finished in 1608. Preachers at the time of the Reformation included Erasmus. Martin Bucer, who influenced Thomas Cranmer’s writing of the Book of Common Prayer, was buried here, and Mary I ordered his corpse burnt in the marketplace.

The clock chimes, the ‘Cambridge Quarters,’ were later used by Big Ben, the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament.

The present vicar-chaplain is the Revd Adrian Daffern.

A statue of the Virgin Mary at Great Saint Mary’s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Little Saint Mary’s or Saint Mary the Less is on the corner of Trumpington Street and Little Saint Mary’s Lane, and dates from the 12th century. I was in Little Saint Mary’s at times for the Sunday Eucharist or High Mass, when Father Andrew Greany was the vicar.

Little Saint Mary’s (LSM) is next door to Peterhouse, directly opposite Pembroke College, and once served as both a parish church and the college chapel of Peterhouse. Richard Crashaw, the metaphysical poet, was associated with Little Saint Mary’s while he was a Fellow of Peterhouse (1638-1643). Less than ten years later, the church’s decoration and ornaments were badly damaged by the Puritan extremist William Dowsing.

The church was refitted in 1741, was restored by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1856-1857, and further restoration work was carried out in 1876 and 1891.

Since the late 19th century, Little Saint Mary’s has offered both the City and University of Cambridge a distinctive liturgical and sacramental witness in the Catholic tradition of Anglicanism. The south chapel was added in 1931, designed by Thomas Lyon, the architect of the chapel in Sidney Sussex College.

The present Vicar of Little Saint Mary’s, Father Robert Mackley, is a regular columnist and reviewer for the Church Times.

3, All Saints’ Church, Jesus Lane:

All Saints’ Church on Jesus Lane is one of the best-preserved Victorian Anglo-Catholic Gothic Revival churches in England (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

All Saints’ Church in Jesus Lane is one of the best-preserved Victorian Anglo-Catholic Gothic Revival churches in England, with some of the finest interior decorations of the period. This was the first church in the Decorated Gothic style of the early 14th century by George Frederick Bodley (1827-1907), one of the most important architects of the Tractarian Movement. It was one of his most successful churches and would become his favourite.

The church stands opposite Jesus College, beside Westcott House and just a few steps away from the Jesus Lane Gate of Sidney Sussex College.

All Saints was built in 1863-1864, but the parish dates back to the Middle Ages. The original church stood on a site opposite Trinity College and close to the Divinity Schools. This site, now marked by a triangular piece of open land with a memorial cross, stood in the old Jewish quarter of Cambridge, and the church was known as All Saints in the Jewry.

The original All Saints’ Church stood on a site opposite Trinity College and close to the Divinity Schools (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The patronage of All Saints was held from the 13th century by Saint Radegunde’s Nunnery, which became Jesus College in 1497. After that, the Vicars of All Saints were appointed by Jesus College.

Through the centuries, the old church was rebuilt and restored on several occasions, but the site was cramped and dark, and by the mid-19th century the parishioners realised it would be impossible to enlarge the building.

Jesus College donated a site on Jesus Lane for a new church. Although Gilbert Scott was the first choice as architect the commission was awarded eventually to Bodley. The foundation stone was laid in 1863, the church was consecrated in 1864.

When the spire was completed in 1869-1871, All Saints was the tallest building in Cambridge, until the Roman Catholic Church was built. Although both have since been out-passed by the chimney of Addenbrooke’s Hospital, the spire of All Saints remains a landmark that can be seen from parts throughout Cambridge.

Bodley was closely associated with William Morris, and the Morris work in All Saints includes the spectacular stained-glass East Window. Later decorations are the work of the studios of the Tractarian artist, Charles Eamer Kempe (1837-1907) and the Cambridge-based studio of Frederick Leach. Kempe had studied architecture under Bodley, and the Cambridge church historian Owen Chadwick once said Kempe’s work represents ‘the Victorian zenith’ of church decoration and stained glass windows.

Bodley devised all the wall paintings in the nave of All Saints, the nave aisle, the sanctuary, and the east end of the south chancel aisle. The pulpit was designed by Bodley in 1864 and the panels were painted by Wyndham Hope Hughes in 1875. The oak chancel screen was designed by the Cambridge architect John Morley and is the work of Rattee and Kent. The choir stalls in the chancel were also designed by Bodley.

The East Window is one of the great treasures of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The East Window (1866) is a memorial to Lady Affleck, wife of the Master of Trinity College and the woman who had laid the foundation stone of the church in 1863. This window is one of the great treasures of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement, with 20 figures designed by Edward Burne-Jones, Ford Madox Brown and William Morris. The whole work was assembled by Morris & Co.

The nave windows include one designed by Kempe as a memorial to three former vicars and showing three saintly Cambridge Anglicans: the priest poet George Herbert, the theologian Bishop Brooke Foss Westcott and the missionary Henry Martyn. The last addition to the church, a window celebrating womanhood, was erected in the nave in 1944, and depicts Elizabeth Fry, Josephine Butler, Mother Cecile Isherwood and Edith Cavell.

With a decline in the number of resident parishioners, the church closed in 1973, and the parish was merged with the Parish of the Holy Sepulchre at the Round Church. The church is now in the Churches Conservation Trust and is used by Cambridge Presbyterian Church and occasionally by Westcott House and the Cambridge Theological Federation.

4, Saint Michael’s Church (Michaelhouse), Trinity Street:

Michaelhouse café and Saint Michael’s Church on Trinity Street, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Michaelhouse is an interesting café located in Saint Michael’s Church in Trinity Street in the oldest part of Cambridge. It is just a few steps from Sidney Sussex College, around the corner at the end of Green Street. It stands opposite Gonville and Caius College and is close to Great Saint Mary’s Church, Trinity College and King’s College Chapel.

The café is set within the 14th century church of Saint Michael’s, a parish and collegiate church. But, while it is an award-winning café and restaurant, Michaelhouse remains a church – you could say it offers refreshment for both body and soul. Church services are held in the chancel several days a week, and the mediaeval Hervey de Stanton Chapel offers a peaceful space that is also a setting at times for concerts.

Michaelhouse recalls the name of one of the earliest Cambridge colleges, which flourished from 1324 until 1546, when it was merged with King’s Hall to form Trinity College. Michaelhouse was the second residential college in Cambridge, following Peterhouse (1284) – although King’s Hall was established in 1317, it did not acquire premises until it was re-founded by King Edward III in 1336.

Trinitarian truths expressed in in a stained-glass window in Michaelhouse, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Michaelhouse was founded by Hervey de Stanton, Edward II’s Chancellor of the Exchequer and Lord Chief Justice, who had acquired the advowson (or right of presentation) to the parish of Saint Michael along with property on the High Street.

In May 1324, Edward II granted a royal charter to the new college for scholars in Holy Orders. Three months later, Bishop John Hotham of Ely granted his own charter. De Stanton suggested to the bishop that the master and fellows, who were all priests, could provide daily worship for the parish as they were using the church as their chapel. And so, the first Master of Michaelhouse, Walter de Buxton, was also Vicar of Saint Michael’s.

When de Stanton died on All Souls’ Day 1325, he was buried in the unfinished chancel.

The college continued to acquire more properties, including property between Saint Michael’s Lane (today’s Trinity Lane) and the river, an area now occupied by the south-west corner of the Great Court of Trinity College, New Court, Scholars’ Lawn and the Wren Library, property around Garret Hostel Lane leading down to the river, and a navigable stream.

Nothing much remains of the original Michaelhouse buildings, apart from Saint Michael’s Church. Until a chapel was completed at Gonville Hall in 1396, both Michaelhouse and Gonville shared the use of the two aisles, with Gonville using the north aisle and Michaelhouse the south.

John Fisher, who was Master of Michaelhouse in 1497-1501, was Chancellor of Cambridge University, and was instrumental in the foundation of Saint John’s College and Christ’s College. As Bishop of Rochester, Fisher took a conservative stance on the royal supremacy and the reformation in the reign of Henry VIII and was executed in 1535.

By the time of the dissolution of the monastic houses, Michaelhouse had an income greater than that of Westminster Abbey. The college was dissolved in 1546 and was merged with King’s Hall to form Trinity College, the largest and wealthiest college in Cambridge to this day.

Until the completion of Trinity College Chapel in 1565, Trinity used Saint Michael’s as its chapel. As the new chapel was being built, 36 scholars’ stalls from the former chapel of King’s Hall, some with carved misericords, were moved to Saint Michael’s, where they remain to this day.

Trinity College continued to hold the patronage of the living of Saint Michael’s and from the 16th to the 18th centuries, Trinity College fellows were chaplains of Saint Michael’s.

Inside Michaelhouse café and Saint Michael’s Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

After a fire in 1849, the church was rebuilt by George Gilbert Scott and his son, George Gilbert Scott junior. Their work included a new stone porch, a new East Window, and a three-tiered new reredos. The artists who worked with Scott included FR Leach, who also worked with GF Bodley on the ceiling and frescoes of All Saints’ Church, the ceiling of Jesus College Chapel, and the dining hall ceiling at Queens’ College. Leach painted the chancel ceiling and arches in Saint Michael’s to designs by Scott as a thank-offering, without accepting any payment. Parts of the north aisle had been painted previously to designs by Holman Hunt.

In time, the parish was too small to be sustainable, and it was finally united with Great Saint Mary’s Church, the university church, in 1908.

By the early 1990s, the church buildings were increasingly in need of significant repair, and an ambitious fundraising and building project began. The Michaelhouse Centre opened in 2002, and is a registered charity. Michaelhouse is now a key cultural and spiritual location in Cambridge, a unique community resource in the heart of the city, and a place of beauty and tranquillity.

5, The Round Church, Bridge Street:

The Round Church, or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, on the corner of Bridge Street and Round Church Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Round Church, or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, on the corner of Bridge Street and Round Church Street, is a landmark building in Cambridge, and one of only four round churches that survive in England.

The Round Church in Cambridge was built ca 1130 by the Fraternity of the Holy Sepulchre. The brothers of the fraternity were probably a group of Austin canons, and were given the land by Abbot Reinald of Ramsey between 1114 and 1130. The Austin Friars had their principal house in Cambridge at the nearby Hospital of Saint John, later the site of Saint John’s College.

They were influenced by the design of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a round church or Rotunda in Jerusalem, built by the Emperor Constantine in the fourth century on the site of Christ’s tomb and the Resurrection.

The Round Church was built in the Norman or Romanesque style, with thick pillars and rounded arches. At first it consisted of a round nave and an ambulatory, with a short chancel, probably in the shape of an apse.

Initially, the church was a wayfarers’ chapel serving travellers along the main Roman road – the Via Devana, now Bridge Street – just outside the town. By the mid-13th century, it had become a parish church under the patronage of Barnwell Priory. Around this time, structural alterations were made, with the rebuilding of the chancel and the addition of a north aisle, with the aisle shorter than the chancel.

During the 15th century, the Norman style windows in the nave were replaced by larger Gothic style windows. The carvings of angels in the roofs of the chancel and aisle were added. A heavy, polygonal gothic tower or bell-storey was built over the round nave in the 15th century.

In 1643-1644, during the Civil War, the Puritans destroyed many of the images in the church. William Dowsing refers to the destruction of the church in his journal on 2 January 1644: ‘We break down 14 superstitious Pictures, divers Idolatrous Inscriptions, one of God the Father, one of Christ and of the Apostles.’

The Round Church was repaired and restored by the Cambridge Camden Society (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The weight of the massive the 15th century Gothic tower was too heavy and it collapsed in the round ambulatory in 1841. The Cambridge Camden Society offered to repair the church. Anthony Salvin replaced the bell-storey with a conical spire that he believed was similar to the original roof and faithful to the nave’s Norman origin. At the same time, the 15th-century Gothic windows were replaced by windows in Norman style, a gallery and staircase were remove, a new south aisle was added, the east wall of the chancel was replaced, and the north aisle was rebuilt.

The communion table, dating from 1843, was made by Joseph Wentworth. In 1899, a vestry was added to the north of the north aisle.

During World War II, the Victorian East Window was destroyed by a bomb in 1942. It was replaced by a modern window portraying the Risen Christ in Majesty, triumphant over death and suffering. The cross is depicted as a living tree with leaves that are for ‘the healing of the nations’ (Revelation 22: 2).

The church is entered by a Norman west doorway with three orders of colonnettes, decorated with scalloped capitals and zigzags, and crenellations in the voussoirs. Most of the stained glass in the church was introduced during the 19th century restoration and was designed and made by Thomas Willement and William Wailes.

The vestry was extended in 1980. But by then the congregation in the Round Church was overflowing, and the building was too small for their numbers. In 1994, they moved down Bridge Street and Sidney Street to the much larger church of Saint Andrew the Great, by Lion Yard, opposite the gate of Christ’s College.

Christian Heritage now manages the building, with an exhibition on the story of Cambridge and the impact of secularism on western culture. Behind the church is the Union Building, the red brick Victorian home of the university debating society.

6, Saint Botolph’s Church, Trumpington Street:

The chancel of Saint Botolph’s was rebuilt by Bodley (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Botolph’s Church on Trumpington Street is beside Corpus Christi College and close to Little Saint Mary’s Church. Like All Saints’ Church, it too has work by the architect GF Bodley and windows by CE Kempe.

Saint Botolph, an abbot from East Anglia who lived in the seventh century, is the patron saint of travellers, and this church once stood at the South Gate or Trumptington Gate of Cambridge, used by travellers arriving from or leaving for London, or travellers from the west who crossed the River Cam where Silver Street Bridge now stands.

There may have been a Saxon church on this site in the past. The nave and aisles of the present church were built in the early 14th century, ca 1320, the period that was influential in Bodley’s design of All Saints’ Church.

The tower was built in the 15th century, as were the west end of the nave, the south chapel and the south porch, as well as the carved rood screen separating the nave from the chancel. This is only mediaeval rood screen to survive in an ancient parish church in Cambridge. The panels were painted in the 19th century with images of the Archangel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary, and together they tell the story of the Annunciation.

The mediaeval font has an elegant, octagonal Laudian wooden cover and canopy that date from 1637.

Looking towards the west end, the tower and the mediaeval font with an elegant, octagonal Laudian wooden cover and canopy that date from 1637 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Bodley was invited to rebuild the chancel of Saint Botoloph’s in 1872, and he brought with him two local artists, GR Leach, who was also working at All Saints’ Church, and G Gray, to carry out the high Victorian decoration of the chancel.

The north window in the chancel is a memorial the Revd Canon Dr William Magan Campion (1820-1896), who was the Rector of Saint Botolph’s (1862-1892) and President of Queens’ College, Cambridge (1892-1896). The window shows Saint Botolph between Saint Bernard and Saint Margaret, the two patron saints of Queens’ College, which was patron of the living.

Campion, who was born in Maryborough (Port Laoise), Co Laois, was instrumental in bringing Bodley, and Kempe and Leach along with him, to work on the restoration of Saint Botolph’s as a result of their work at All Saints’ Church in Jesus Lane. An earlier association with neighbouring Corpus Christi College is recalled by with the pelican in the Crucifixion window by Kempe in the north aisle.

The Revd Stephen Anderson is the Priest-in-Charge of Saint Botolph’s.

7, Saint Clement’s Church, Bridge Street:

Saint Clement’s Church, Bridge Street, is one of the oldest churches in Cambridge

Saint Clement’s Church, on the corner of Bridge Street and Portugal Place, Cambridge, is shared by the Church of England parish with the Greek Orthodox Parish of Saint Athanasios and Saint Clement in Cambridge. Saint Clement’s Church, Cambridge, and Saint Clement Danes on the Strand, London, are examples of the popularity of dedicating churches to Saint Clement in Danish settlements in England.

Saint Clement’s is one of the oldest churches in Cambridge and was built in the first half of the 13th century. The advowson of Saint Clement’s was given to the nuns of Saint Radegund ca 1215 and 1217, but it is believed Saint Clement’s is on the site of an earlier, larger building.

The early building works consist of the four west bays of the north and south arcades of the nave, the responds and the arch of the chancel-arch. The wider east bay of the nave indicates some form of transept chapels. The nave arcades remain from the 13th century. The east bay of the arcades appears to have been rebuilt in the 14th century.

The chancel was rebuilt in a Gothic style ca 1726, when the present capitals of the responds of the chancel-arch were inserted. The west tower was built in 1821, the church was restored in 1863 and the vestry was built on the site of the former north chapel in 1866. The spire formerly on the tower was removed in 1928.

Four large iconic panels act as a chancel screen, depicting Christ, the Virgin Mary, Saint John the Baptist and Saint Athanasios. Above these icons is an old rood beam and there are interesting grave slabs around the church. The east wall is filled with a fresco of Christ standing in a vesica and robed as a High Priest, surrounded by angels and saints.

Bicycles chained to the railings at the side of Saint Clement’s Church on Portugal Place (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Clement’s is in the ‘Prayer Book Catholic’ tradition, and Canon Nick Moir has been Priest-in-Charge since 2014.

When I first got to know Saint Clement’s, the church hosted the Greek Orthodox Parish of Saint Athanasios, until the parish moved to Cherry Hinton Road. Saint Clement’s now hosts the Parish of Saint Ephraim the Syrian, an English-speaking Russian Orthodox parish in the Diocese of Sourozh. Father Raphael Armour, the parish priest, is a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies.

8, Saint Edward King and Martyr, Saint Edward’s Passage:

The Church of Saint Edward King and Martyr is surrounded on three sides by Saint Edward’s Passage (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Church of Saint Edward King and Martyr is on Peas Hill in central Cambridge. It is dedicated to Edward the Martyr, the murdered King of England (975-978). Saint Edward’s, on the west side of the Guildhall, is hidden away, surrounded on three sides by Saint Edward’s Passage, a pedestrian alleyway better known for David’s bookshop.

This is the only ‘royal peculiar’ in Cambridge. The church was founded in the 13th century on what is believed to be the site of an earlier Anglo-Saxon church. The church was rebuilt ca 1400, creating the present chancel and arches of the nave. The arch at the base of the tower remains from the original building.

The living of Saint Edward’s Church was granted to Trinity Hall in 1445 in compensation for the loss of lands at the foundation of King’s College, and the Chaplain is still appointed by Trinity Hall. Two 15th-century side-chapels were built in Saint Edward’s, the north chapel for Trinity Hall, and the south by Clare Hall (now Clare College.

Latimer’s pulpit in Saint Edward King and Martyr (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

At the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve 1525, Robert Barnes preached what is said to be the first openly evangelical sermon in any English church. Over the next decade, many of the great reformers preached here, including Hugh Latimer, who was a regular preacher until he left Cambridge in 1531, and Saint Edward’s became known as the ‘Cradle of the Reformation.’

The east window, designed by George Gilbert Scott, and was added during the restorations of 1858-1860. The theologian FD Maurice was chaplain in 1870-1872.

A bicycle at the railings of Saint Edward King and Martyr (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In the 1930s, Saint Edward’s was the Toc H church for the east of England, and became known to students as ‘Teddy’s.’

The acting vicar-chaplain is the Revd Dr Mark Scarlata, Old Testament lecturer and tutor at Saint Mellitus College, London.

9, Our Lady and the English Martyrs, Hills Road:

Our Lady and the English Martyrs was built in 1885-1890 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs (OLEM) is the English Roman Catholic parish church in the centre of Cambridge. It stands at the junction of Hills Road and Lensfield Road and is a large Gothic Revival church built in 1885-1890.

The Lensfield estate was bought in 1879, with the aid of the Duke of Norfolk, the church was designed by the architects Archibald Matthias Dunn and Edward Joseph Hansom, and the foundation stone was laid in 1887.

Our Lady and the English Martyrs was designed by Archibald Matthias Dunn and Edward Joseph Hansom (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Building one of the largest Roman Catholic churches in England on such a prominent site, and its dedication to the ‘Forty Martyrs of England and Wales,’ caused controversy in Cambridge.

The stained glass windows include depictions of Cambridge colleges and scenes from the lives of English martyrs, in particular Saint John Fisher.

10, Emmanuel United Reformed Church, Trumpington Street:

Emmanuel United Reformed Church … the building has been bought by Pembroke College (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Emmanuel United Reformed Church, beside Little Saint Mary’s Church on Trumpington Street and close to Corpus Christi College and Pembroke College, was sold in 2017 to Pembroke College, which intends to retain it as a lecture and performance area.

The congregation began in 1687 as the Cambridge Great Meeting at Hog Hill or Hog Hill Independent Church. From 1691, the minister was Joseph Hussey, who is commemorated in the apse windows, alongside John Greenwood, Henry Barrow, Oliver Cromwell, John Milton and Francis Holcroft.

The church was rebuilt in the late 18th century and opened as Emmanuel Congregational Chapel in 1790. The congregation moved a new church on Trumpington Street in 1874. It was designed by the architect James Cubitt and became Emmanuel Congregational Church.

As a child, the future Archbishop Michael Ramsey attended Emmanuel Congregational Church, where his father was an elder (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

As a child, the future Archbishop Michael Ramsey attended the former Congregationalist Church, where his father was an elder.

Emmanuel voted to join the new United Reformed Church in 1972. In addition to its Sunday worship, Emmanuel ran several community activities, including a volunteer-staffed Fairtrade café and lunchtime recitals.

The congregation recently merged with Saint Columba’s United Reformed Church on Downing Place as Downing Place URC. Saint Columba’s began as a congregation of the Presbyterian Church of England in 1879, and held services in the Cambridge Guildhall until the present church opened at the corner of Downing Street and Downing Place in 1891.

The merged congregation retains the use of Emmanuel Church until September 2020, although it is now closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

11, Saint Andrew and Saint Mary, Grantchester:

‘Stands the Church clock at ten to three?’ … the clock on the tower of Saint Andrew’s and Saint Mary’s Church, Grantchester, on a summer afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

On summer afternoons, I have strolled to Grantchester, a village made famous or popular by both Lord Byron and Rupert Brooke, later by Pink Floyd and the novelists Tom Sharpe and Jeffrey Archer, and more recently by James Runcie’s television drama series Grantchester.

But Grantchester long predates poets, popular culture, paperback novelists and television drama. The area was settled in prehistoric and Roman times and later by the Saxons, according to artefacts that show provide archaeological evidence of settlement in this area.

The Domesday Book offers evidence of life in 1086. The oldest part of the parish church in Grantchester, Saint Andrew and Saint Mary – the chancel – dates from the 14th century, the nave and tower are 15th century, and the south aisle was added in the 1870s. The font is believed to be Norman, and the 17th century pulpit probably came from the chapel of Corpus Christi College.

The parish church in Grantchester provided many of the locations for the ITV drama series (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Orchard in Grantchester first became popular in 1897, when a group of Cambridge students persuaded the owner of Orchard House to serve them tea in its apple orchard. Those who stayed at Orchard House included the poet Rupert Brooke, who later moved next door to the Old Vicarage. While he was in Berlin in 1912, Brooke wrote of his homesickness in his poem The Old Vicarage, Grantchester, asking:

Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?


The house is now the home of the Cambridge scientist Mary Archer and her husband, the paperback novelist Jeffrey Archer.

The village and many of its inhabitants form the backdrop to the ITV drama series Grantchester, based on the novels by James Runcie, son of the Archbishop Robert Runcie of Canterbury. In the series, the Vicar of Grantchester is the Revd Sidney Chambers (James Norton), a former Scots Guards officer who is an amateur sleuth and who solves a series of mysteries from the 1950s until 1978. Grantchester was the location for extensive filming for the series, and the church interior and the churchyard were used for many of the scenes.

The Revd Rachel Rosborough is the Priest in Charge of Grantchester and of Saint Mark’s, Newnham.

12, Trumpington:

Parts of the parish church of Saint Mary and Saint Michael in Trumpington date from the mid-13th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today, when visitors to Cambridge think of ‘Trumpington’ and ‘church,’ they inevitably think of the Church of Saint Mary the Less (‘LSM’) on the corner of Trumpington Street and Little Saint Mary’s Lane. But the older Church of Saint Mary and Saint Michael in Trumpington itself is also worth a visit.

Trumpington, about 3 km south of Cambridge city, is often overshadowed by nearby Grantchester, with its picture-postcard prettiness and its literary associations with Rupert Brooke. However, the Parish of Trumpington existed long before the Norman Conquest, and by the time of the Domesday Book in 1086 there was a thriving community there.

The church in Trumpington was known as Saint Nicholas by this 1291 and was mainly built in 1200-1330. The nave was rebuilt in 1339, and there were several attempts in the 14th century to determine the true direction of East, which has resulted in the chancel and the tower not being in line.

There are documentary references later in the Middle Ages to the church as Saint Mary and Saint Michael, and this dedication continues to this day. In the Middle Ages the church was endowed with stained glass and the walls were plastered and probably painted. Although much of the glass depicting saints and biblical figures was destroyed at the Reformation, heraldic motifs and purely decorative glass survived largely intact.

The wooden rood screen, at the entrance to the chancel, dates from the 15th century. The top of the rood screen was roughly sawn off during the Reformation, when these screens were seen as barriers between the priest and people.

The pulpit, was which was given to the church in 1677 by Thomas Allen, came from the old chapel of Emmanuel College after Christopher Wren designed the present college chapel. The church was renovated by William Butterfield in 1876.

The old churchyard includes many 18th and 19th century graves, including the grave of Sir George Howard Darwin (1845-1912), son of Charles Darwin, mathematician and geophysicist.

The Vicar of Trumpington is the Revd Dr Mandy Maxwell.

A banner was once displayed at Saint Andrew’s the Great, beside Petty Curry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Walking from the railway station along Hills Road and Saint Andrew’s Street to Sidney Sussex College I have become familiar with many other churches in Cambridge, including Saint John the Evangelist at the junction of Hills Road and Blinco Grove, where the curates have included Canon Angela Tilby and Bishop Stephen Sykes; Saint Paul’s on Hills Road, and Saint Andrew’s Street Baptist Church, which dates from 1821; and Holy Trinity Church, with its slogan, ‘Come to Christ, Learn to Love and Love to Learn, in Cambridge and beyond.’

I have already blogged about my strong opinions about Saint Andrew’s the Great, across the street from Christ’s College, HERE.

Cambridge Synagogue and Jewish Student Centre on Thompson’s Lane (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

But there are many other places of worship in Cambridge to be positive about, from the the magnificent Methodist Church next to Christ’s Pieces, to the synagogues at Ellis Court on Thompson’s Lane and on Auckland Road.

Hopefully, when the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic are over, I can organise another return visit to Cambridge, revisit these churches, visit some more for thefirst time, and even broswe through the books at David’s bookshop, in Saint Edward’s Passage.

David’s bookshop in Saint Edward’s Passage, seen from the small churchyard at Saint Edward King and Martyr (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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