Tuesday, 13 September 2011

A Country Church

One of the great treasures of England is its huge number of country church. From the great "wool churches" of East Anglia (so called because it was wealth from wool production which financed their construction) to the tiniest moorland kirk every one is unique and full of interest. Lets visit the church at Grantchester near Cambridge, the village where I grew up and a fairly typical place of worship.

Grantchester church is right next to Manor Farm which is a fairly normal arrangement; the church and the lord of the manor were very much at the hub of power in village life for centuries. The tiny house just in front of the church is the gatekeeper's lodge for Manor Farm.

The first question the visitor wants to know is 'How old is the church?' which is usually impossible to answer. Churches have invariably been built and rebuilt, added to and altered throughout their life. The picture above shows various stones which were part of a Saxon or Norman church. The fragments were discovered and incorporated into the south wall when the church was extended towards the end of the 19th century.

The church is entered, somewhat unusually, by a porch on the north side. (Most churches being entered on the south side). Homeless parishioners were once able to take up residence in the porch whereupon the church would re-house them. The porch dates from the early 16th century and the door, which is locked by a truly enormous key, appears to be every bit as old.

Once inside the building the eye is drawn towards the chancel at the east end. The stained glass dates from around 1900 but the window itself is early 14th century and is of unusual design.

There are a number of ancient memorials on the walls and the floor....

....but there are also memorials of a different kind - a model of the church made in the 1870s by Samuel Page Widnall, a man of many peculiar skills and enthusiasms.....

 ....and more recently the ladies of the parish set about making kneelers. My mother made several including this one, dedicated to the memory of my granny who died, aged 99, in 1993.

Time to go back outside now and ponder on our mortality among the gravestones.

Take care.


  1. So much history and so much beauty! And how wonderful that each kirk is also unique.

    I'm thinking it took your mother many, many hours to complete that kneeler!

  2. John, your country churches are not only older, they're much more elaborate than ours. I hope you will show us more as time goes by. Jim

  3. And is there honey still for tea?
    Surely that poem was written about Granchester wasn't it? Isn't that the village where Geoffrey Archer lives?
    I love the model church - some of the Suffolk churches which are wool churches have models in them too.

  4. It may be typical but it's a very attractive example of a parish church.

  5. Wow. That's it. Just, WOW!!! Thanks John for the pictures and history of the church. Can't wait for more on this subject. And your Mum's kneeler is beautiful!

  6. Hello John. Such a lovely piece and photographs of a beautiful country Church. I love to wander around old Churches and you have really caught the atmosphere. Jane x

  7. A superb tour around a fantastic looking church. We are lucky to have such wonderful places in this country, still.Looks like an excellent blog. Thanks.

  8. All your comments are much appreciated.
    EGWow: Every church seems to have something interesting in them. Mum actually made several kneelers, all dedicated to the memory of family members and friends.
    Wayfarin' Stranger: I will certainly do some more posts about Churches in the future.
    Weaver Of Grass: Your recollection of the poem is correct. Rupert Brooke's name is on the war memorial.The model is an astonishing piece of work - the roof lifts off to show the inside of the church in minute detail, but it proved impossible to photograph.
    jennyfreckles: thanks, I reaaly enjoy your blog.
    mommalizzie: Glad you liked it.
    Jane The Booklady: Thanks, I love to have a look inside these wonderful buildings - a great place to meditate and gather your thoughts.
    Genius Loci: We are indeed blessed to have so much of our heritage still intact.
    Thanks to all for visiting and passing comment.

  9. Outstanding post, John. I learned a lot.

  10. John, I "happened" upon this particular blog of yours and away went my resolve to get up from the computer and deal with the day's responsibilities!! This is a fabulous collection of photos and interesting accompanying history. Thanks so much for sharing. In the words of a former film star/politician .... "I'll be back" !!


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