Tuesday, 22 November 2011

St Mary The Less

I will get back to the mile of English road which we began in the last post. However I intend to briefly digress for a quick visit to one of the less well-known churches in the city of Cambridge to see something which may interest the Statesiders among you. We get a lot of American tourists in Cambridge but I'll bet that few of them go home with this obscure little nugget of information.

We have to go to the church of St Mary The Less, or Little St Mary's. It's the church which is "little" or "less" not the saint herself, and it is so known to differentiate it from Great St Mary's, the university church which stands right in the centre of town. St Mary The Less is easy to walk past without noticing, hidden as it is behind trees and tucked in between the huge United Reform Church and Peterhouse College. It also lacks a tower or spire to give it distinction.

But Little St Mary's Lane is a quaint area which is worth exploring, though again very few people do so.

And the church has a secluded little graveyard behind it, pretty in summer and atmospheric in winter. The church itself though is so shy and self-effacing that it's impossible to get a satisfactory picture of its exterior. We'll have to venture inside....

....to find a surprisingly light and airy building, elegant and uncluttered. There's a striking representation of the Virgin Mary in a side chapel too.

But this is what I've brought you to see....

....a memorial to Godfrey Washington  b.1670 - d.1729, a former minister of this church, we are told. He was from the same family as George Washington, the first President of the USA. If you cast your eye to the family coat of arms above the inscription you'll see the "stars and stripes" of the Washington family which were to form the basis of the US flag.
Take care.


  1. Now that is fascinating! I've always thought hat Betsy Ross who stitched the first flag was the one who dreamed up the idea of the stars ans stripes.

  2. A lovely post John: delightful images accompanied by fascinating background info. Thank you for sharing this part of your world with us. ("Oh, to be in England...")!

  3. Very good, John! Thank you. The church building is beautiful, such as we could see, and it certainly is such inside. When was it built? And Little St. Mary's Lane definitely beckons. Regards the Washington family coat of arms, that's certainly one story. But I'm afraid the simple fact is, we don't know if it's true or not. But like all stories, if we keep telling it long enough it will be true. Jim

  4. This is an interesting tale, John. I don't know if the part about the origins of the American flag is true or not, but I am going to start telling it and leave it to someone else to prove me wrong.

  5. Was a bit late this week getting my fix of your posts ...but I was not disappointed ...so many interesting facts like those on this post and the Squeeze box one ...and what wonderful shots ...love the cottages. I hate trying to get good shots of old buildings and streets as there are always cars or wheely bins in the way.

  6. I would never have noticed the stars and stripes. How surprising! Thanks for another intriguing post, John.

  7. Thanks for all your interest. Truth or otherwise it's certainly an intriguing co-incidence, isn't it. The church originally dates from the 12th century, but only fragments of that structure remain. It was then known as St-Peter-without-Trumpington-Gate, and Peterhouse College (founded 1284) took its name from the church. The church was rebuilt around 1340 and was reconsecrated.


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