The Roman Catholic church of Our Lady And The English Martyrs, usually just known as "the Catholic", is one of the main landmarks on the skyline of Cambridge. It first came into my consciousness as part of the mantra "One and two halves to the Catholic" which my mother used to say to the bus conductor when she took my brother and I on the number 128 bus to town. And half a century later I decided it was time I had a look inside.
The first impression that the church makes is that it is BIG. Like many Gothic Revival buildings of the late Victorian period it appears to have been built for a race of giants; the doors are huge, the ceilings high and the windows set so high that no one could see out. It was designed by Dunn and Hansom who designed many Catholic buildings, mostly in the north-east of England. Hansom, incidentally, was the nephew of Joseph Aloysius Hansom, the man who invented the Hansom cab.
The building was paid for by Mrs Lyne-Stephens, the former Yolande Duvernay, a famous operatic dancer of the mid 19th century. She was the widow of Stephens Lyne-Stephens, a politician and banker who was reputed to be the wealthiest commoner in Britain. On her husband's death she used her fortune to fund the building of churches and schools.
The erection of such a huge Catholic church in the 1890s caused quite a stir, not least because of its dedication to the English Martyrs, those men who were put to death by the Protestant authorities during the religious intolerance of the Tudor and Stuart period.
There is much beautiful carving around the walls of the church, most of it telling the story of the crucifixion.
This post is really for my cousins in the USA, for I believe their parents, my aunt and uncle of course, were married in this church. I hope I've got that right Granny Sue. For Granny Sue of Granny Sue's News And Reviews blogsite is my cousin who inspired me to try my hand at blogging.
I went outside and looked up again at the soaring architecture. I tried to find some different viewpoints to show the building to advantage and wandered around the surrounding streets for a while before realising that I already knew the place I was looking for. I made my way to the grounds of Downing College to see the church from the college lawns.