Tuesday, 10 September 2013

St Peter, Petersham

Petersham is quite unexpected: a true village within suburban London, sandwiched between Kingston and Richmond. The quaint and large Georgian brick-built church of St Peter lies just off the main road, a little corner of tranquillity away from the bustle beyond.

It is thought a Saxon chapel existed here in the 8th century, and a church was mentioned in Domesday. The earliest part of the present structure, however, is the chancel, rebuilt in 1266 and now retaining a single simple lancet window. The rest of the church was rebuilt in 1505 and again in the 1700s with the expansion of the transepts, which effectively reorientated the church north-south. The south side was enlarged again in 1840, but has been little altered since.

Inside, the feeling is overwhelmingly of a well-loved Georgian chapel, with high box pews and galleries, a lofty hexagonal pulpit with a spiral staircase, and round-headed windows with pale glass. There are two memorials of note: a fine Jacobean memorial to George Cole (d. 1624) and his wife, and in the churchyard, that of George Vancouver (1757-1798), whose expedition in 1791-5 charted the north west coasts of America and Canada.

On my visit the church had two delightful and informative welcomers.

St Peter, Church Lane, Petersham, Surrey, TW10 7AB

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Newcastle Cathedral

The Cathedral Church of St Nicholas was originally built as a parish church and was elevated to cathedral status with the advent of the Diocese of Newcastle in 1882. The largely 14th century building is a distinctive landmark in the city and retains much of its mediaeval fabric.

A church was built on the site soon after the erection of the castle, around 1091. Originally a wooden structure, it was rebuilt in stone towards the end of the 12th century. It was repaired and extended over successive centuries, including the raising of the clerestory above the nave in the 14th century, and the erection of the famous tower with its lantern spire, in 1442. Badly damaged by Scottish invaders in 1640 and 1644, the cathedral underwent heavy restoration in the 19th century under the supervision of Robert J Johnson.

The plan is conventional, with both the nave and chancel having 4 bays of aisles, with transepts and north and south porches. The mediaeval windows are a mixture of Decorated and Perpendicular Gothic. The building has a number of interesting memorials, including a 14th century effigy of a  knight with a shield and a lamb at his feet. On the south chancel wall is a large incised brass from the grave of Roger Thornton (d. 1429) and his wife, said to be the largest mediaeval brass in England. The city's growing mercantile prosperity is reflected in the many memorials from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, notable among which is that to Admiral Lord Collingwood (1748-1810), who assumed command at Trafalgar after the death of Nelson.

The Cathedral has a busy life of worship and music and is open every day of the year.

The Cathedral Church of St. Nicholas, St. Nicholas Square, Newcastle upon Tyne. NE1 1PF

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

St Thomas of Canterbury, East Clandon

East Clandon has a homely little church, clearly well cared for by its congregation.

The Victoria County History records the nave as dating back to c. 1100, although the windows were renewed in the Perpendicular style in the 15th century. The chancel dates to around 1220, with the unusual feature of twin lancets at the east end, rather than the usual three. The communion rails date from the late 1600s.

The small aisle is entered through a single arch, although it ends at the west end in a pillar rather than the usual respond, indicating either that there was another bay or that one was intended. The aisle itself was rebuilt in the 1900s, and contains the tomb-chest of Stuart, Lord Rendel (1834-1913), beneath a mock-Jacobean ceiling. Rendel was an industrialist, Liberal politican and an early benefactor to the University of Wales.

In the wooden bell turret, one of the three bells dates from 1500, a happy pre-Reformation survivor.

St Thomas of Canterbury, East Clandon, The Street, East Clandon, Surrey, GU4 7RY

Old St Peter & St Paul, Albury

Albury boasts four churches: the original Saxon church of St Peter and Paul; the Victorian replacement (in the re-sited village) of the same dedication; a 19th century church north of Albury Park, erected by Henry Drummond in 1840 to house the Catholic Apostolic Church (of which he was an enthusiastic convert and advocate); and a modern 'Church in Barn'. The Saxon church, splendidly isolated in Albury Park, is now redundant and in the care of the Church Conservation Trust, although occasional services are still held here.

The north wall and tower base are Saxon, but the nave is mostly Norman work, with a 13th century chancel and south transept, and a large 14th century aisle of 3 bays. The tower is topped by a jolly 18th century cupola with wooden shingles.

Stripped of its pews and furnishings, the interior is atmospheric but bare, save for a late 14th century wall painting of a wonderfully bearded St Christopher and the fantastical, deeply coloured decoration of the south transept, designed by Pugin in 1839, as a setting for Drummond's memorial. Simpler is the brass to John Weston (d. 1440) on the south transept floor.

St Peter and St Paul Old Church, Albury Park, Surrey, GU5 9BB
Albury, Guildford, Surrey, GU5 9BB
Albury, Guildford, Surrey, GU5 9BB

Monday, 26 August 2013

All Saints, Ockham

Ockham is chiefly famous for William of Ockham (c. 1287-1347), the philosopher whose maxim that hypotheses must be reduced to their constituent parts, is known as "Ockham's Razor". The other razor is the church's magnificent 13th century 7-stepped lancet window, one of only two in England.

The church sits away from the main road, and dates back to the around 1220. In fact the famous window (dated to around 1250) is framed by the remains of a slightly earlier 3-light window and a later Tudor one, giving rise to the theory that the present window was rescued from nearby Newark Priory at the Dissolution and inserted here in the 16th century. Either way, the window, with its internal array of shafts with stiff-leaf capitals, is a magnificent composition. The nave and chancel windows were renewed around 1350, and the tower erected around 1400. The ceiling was renewed in Tudor times.

As well as the famous window, the church has some notable monuments, including a small collection of brasses, the best of which commemorates John (d. 1483) and Margaret (d. 1475) Weston. In the King Chapel is the vast and magnificent monument by the celebrated sculptor Rysbrach to Peter King, 1st Baron King of Ockham, who was Lord Chancellor 1725-33.

The church has an extensive collection of mediaeval glass, some of it original, from the 14th century onwards, and some 18th century Flemish armorial brass.

All Saints Church: Ockham Road North, Ockham, GU23 6NL

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

St Cadoc's, Cadoxton, Barry

St Cadoc's is a pretty little church and a surprising discovery, in what is now effectively a suburb of Barry. It nestles in a little green enclave in the midst of Victorian terraces and modern estates.

The origins of the church are obscure, and made harder to read because of a very thorough rebuilding in 1885. It is said to have been founded by Cadoc himself (who lived in the 5th-6th centuries), but another version suggests a founding in 800AD. Either way, the present structure is based on a later Norman stone-built church, and a couple of round-headed windows (one rest by the Victorians in the nave and one in the tower) suggest a 12th century rebuilding.

The tower, porch and chancel are largely 15th century, but the nave is largely Victorian. The nave has the remains of a 15th century rood loft staircase, as well as mediaeval water stoups and font. The aisle-less interior has a countrified feel, enhanced by the pretty 17th century altar railings.

During the Victorian renovations, fragmentary remains of wall paintings were discovered, as well as a Lord's Prayer and Ten Commandments, presumably dating from the 16th-17th centuries. The church has regular services in the Anglo-Catholic tradition.

Coldbrook Road West, Cadoxton, Barry CF63 1 LF

St Mary, Brownsea Island

St Mary's is a picture-postcard church on the island of Brownsea in Poole Harbour, famed for being the site where the Scouting movement started and for its red squirrel colony.

For a Victorian church, it has had a complex history. It was built in 1853 by Colonel Waugh, one of a series of owners during the 19th century. A retired Colonel from India, he tried to establish a porcelain industry on the island, but the clay turned out to be suitable only for heavy earthenware such as pipes and tiles, and the business venture failed. One of the later owners was the Dutch tobacco magnate Charles van Raalte, who was buried in a fine mausoleum in the church, and whose wife established an early daffodil industry on the island.

The church fell into disrepair under the subsequent owner, Mary Bonham-Christie, who lived as a recluse and expelled most of the population from the island on its purchase in 1925. On her death in 1961, the island was made over to the National Trust in lieu of death duties. The church, along with the rest of island, was restored, although it is the only building on the island not in National Trust ownership.

The church is in the Decorated Gothic style and consist of an aisleless nave, chancel, porch, tower, mausoleum and vestry. The church has neither water nor electricity, and its chief interest lies in it being almost unaltered, and for containing a range of interesting imported furnishings. These include extensive 16th century linenfold panelling brought from Crosby Hall in London, a grand 17th century imported fireplace under the tower with carved figures and a canopy, further 17th century panels on the nave walls, and a carved marble effigy of Charles van Raalte in the mausoleum.

The church has regular services in the summer months, attendance varying according to the number of visitors on the island (during scout camps there can be hundreds).

Brownsea Island, Poole Harbour, BH13 7EE

Lady St Mary, Wareham

St Martin's-on-the-Wall, Wareham

St Stephen, Bournemouth

St Stephen's is one of the masterpieces of Gothic revival architecture in England, and is one of two major Victorian churches in Bournemouth. It was a favourite of poet John Betjeman.

The church was commissioned in memory of the first Vicar of Bournemouth, Alexander Morden Bennett, who was a leading exponent of the high church Tractarian movement. The architect chosen was J L Pearson. The foundation stone was laid in 1881 and the tower finally completed in 1907.

The church has a double-aisled nave with transepts, and an apsed chancel with a narrow ambulatory behind. Pearson chose a restrained Early Gothic style, but the astonishing interior is achieved through a clever use of space: the aisles and arcades are relatively low, but are surmounted by a very tall clerestory with large paired lancet windows; the final bay before the chancel arch tapers inwards, giving the impression of greater length; the low springing of the nave vault creates an impression of height; and the double aisles and ambulatory means that almost every vista presents a forest of columns.

Although austere, the choice of high quality materials and the fact it is vaulted throughout lends the church a serene beauty, enhanced by spare but high quality furnishings. The delicate wrought iron chancel screens and gates were designed by Pearson, and the floors are inlaid with imported coloured marbles. But the highlight (almost literally, as it is deliberately floodlit) is the gilded reredos by Nathaniel Hitch, with panels of saints upon background of rich blues and reds.

The church still retains its Anglo-Catholic tradition of worship and a renowned choir.

St Stephen's Way, Bournemouth, Dorset BH2 6JZ

St Peter, Bournemouth

St Peter's stands on the east side of Bournemouth centre, half way up a hill. The splendid Gothic revival exterior contains within some of the richest Victorian Gothic interiors in the country.

Built from 1854 onwards to replace an earlier church, the architect was George  Edmund Street (1824-1881). The west tower with its spire is something of a landmark, and leads to a nave with north and south aisles (the latter surviving from the earlier church). These have tiled murals and extensive wall decoration, an hors d'ouvres to the feast to come.

The chancel arch is surmounted by a mural by Clayton & Bell, but it is the choir and south transept which steal the show. These are richly decorated with murals, tiling, carved marble and alabaster, with every surface, from floor to ceiling, a riot of pattern and colour.

The nave houses a cafe during the week, providing employment for people with learning difficulties. In the steeply sloping churchyard is the tomb of the author of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley (1797-1851), the heart of Shelley buried beside her.

Hinton Rd, Bournemouth, Dorset BH1 2EE

St Peter, Dorchester

St Peter's is a classic mediaeval town church, containing some interesting memorials, although today is rather hemmed in by traffic.

Although there has been a church on the site since Norman times, the present building dates from 1454, after a bequest for a new church was left in 1420. It was restored in 1856, the architect's assistant being one Thomas Hardy, the novelist. One of its rectors, John White (1606-1648) was instrumental in the establishment of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, forerunner of the American State.

The church is essentially Perpendicular Gothic throughout, and has a fine west tower, porch, and an aisled nave and a chancel flanked by chapels. The main doorway in the porch has zig-zag decoration and was probably re-used from the earlier church. The pulpit is an attractive 17th century example, but the main interest lies in the memorials.

In the south chapel are the effigies of two knights, probably dating from the 14th century. The guide-book suggests they have come from a former monastery. Rather hidden behind the organ is the very fine memorial to Sir John Williams (d. 1617) and his wife, erected in 1628, and a good example of its type. Sir John and his wife face each other kneeling, under a large arched canopy, decorated with strapwork. It deserves to be better placed.

In the north aisle is a splendid classical monument to Denzil, Lord Holles (d. 1680), who played a major role in trying to reconcile the parliamentary and royalist factions after the English Civil War. Finally, the reredos depicts the Last Supper, and commemorates the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, known for his campaigning for the abolition of child labour.

The church is part of the united benefice of Dorchester.

High West Street, Dorchester DT1 1UG

Christchurch Priory

Christchurch Priory has a magnificent setting, in a moated precinct adjacent to Christchurch Harbour, at the end of the old town's main street. It is the longest parish church in England (over 311ft) and its cathedral-scale interior and its monuments have survived remarkably well down the centuries.


A Saxon Minster dedicated to the Holy Trinity was built in the 7th century, but was torn down and replaced by the current building, begun in 1094. Much of this Norman church survives in the nave and the transepts. the Choir (here called the Quire) and Lady chapel being rebuilt in the Perpendicular style in the 15th century, along with the west tower, built to replace a central tower which collapsed.

The Church

From the outside, the Norman work can seem rather forbidding, and the two-storey Early Gothic porch would be worthy of a castle fortification. The contrast with the later Quire and Lady Chapel, with their flying butresses and great windows, is startling. There is one gem to be noted on its exterior from the Norman period, however: the celebrated north transept stair turret, a perfect composition of vigorous blind arcading and trellis patterns.

Inside, the impressive nave of 7 bays is classic Norman work, with rounded arches in the arcade and triforium, giving way to early pointed arches in the clerestory and arcade windows. Heading east, the Quire screen dates from 1320 and leads to the Great Quire, and the magnificent High Altar screen of 1360, depicting a Tree of Jesse.

High above the Lady Chapel ambulatory is a cut-off beam; it was said the carpenters found the original too short when it was hoisted into place. Vexed at what to do, the next day they returned to find the beam now fitted, and was in place. The only explanation was a carpenter who had worked and eaten alone, but was not seen after the beam was inserted. The legend grew up that it was Christ himself, as carpenter, who had performed the miraculous deed.

The church abounds with monuments of high quality. Of particular note are the four beautifully preserved chantries, that of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury (built in 1529) being the most magnificent, with suberb fan vaulting. The Quire has an outstanding set of choir stalls and misercords, depicting themes as varied as King Richard III, a salmon, a Fox in a pulpit, and scenes from a fair. My favourites include a man sword fighting with geese, and two contortionists - one of whose feet is being bitten by a dog.

Finally, under the tower is a memorial to the poet Shelley (1792-1822), placed here, it is said, because his own parish church in Bournemouth refused to house a memorial to someone of such notorious character.

Christchurch Priory, Quay Road, Christchurch BH23 1BU

Wimborne Minster

Wimborne Minster is a fascinating church, occupying pride of pace in the historic market town. It contains architecture from all the major mediaeval styles from Norman Romanesque to Perpendicular Gothic.

The church was founded around 705AD as a nunnery by St Cuthberga, sister of King Ina of the west Saxons. It was visited by St Boniface, the evangelist of Germany, and Alfred the Great buried his brother Ethelred (837-871) here. But the monastery was destroyed in a Danish raid in 1013. Edward the Confessor refounded the church as a college of secular canons in 1043, and it prospered as a royal peculiar during the Middle Ages.

The oldest part of the church is the crossing under the central tower, and the huge arches date from around 1120. The upper part of the toweris later, and the nave later still, with wonderful arcades of transitional arches - pointed in the gothic style, yet with Norman decoration of chevrons and dogtooth, and some wonderful corbels of animals and human heads. The original Norman clerestorey now sits below a later one in the Perpendicular style.

The north transept contains a Saxon remnant (a stair turret) within a Decorated Gothic space, rebuilt in 1350. The walls have fragments of wall paintings from the 13th-15th centuries. The south transept was extended around 1220. The chancel has a mixture of styles and sits above a crypt built in 1340. Finally, the west tower was added in the Perpendicular style in 1464 to house a peal of bells: this allowed the later opening up of the central tower space.

The church has many fittings of interest. In the west tower is a 14th century astronomical clock, adjacent to the early Decorated font. there are some very fine and fascinating tombs: a fine coloured Jacobean monument to Sir Edmund Uvedale (d. 1606), apparently with two left feet; a magnificent tomb chest with effigies to John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset (d. 1444) and his wife Margaret. the arch above has a wonderful corbel figure of Moses with a plaited beard. Also in the chancel is a brass to King Ethelred, dating from 1440, and the only brass to an English King. the adjacent choir stalls have Jacobean misericords carved in 1610.

In the Holy Trinity chapel is the tomb of Anthony Erricke, a barrister who asked to buried in the wall so je would be neither inside nor outside the church. predicting his own death in 1693, he died ten years later, so the dates were rather crudely changed on his coffin.

The church has a regular cycle of services during the weekand is a popular visitor attraction, with a small shop.

High Street, Wimborne, BH21 1HT

Friday, 2 August 2013

Gloucester Cathedral

Gloucester's is one of the major cathedrals of England, and the resting place of Edward II.

The cathedral started life as an abbey in 678AD, although little is known about it before the Norman conquest. William the Conqueror appointed Serlo as Abbott in 1072, who set about the task of rebuilding, and creating the building we see today. Henry III was crowned here in 1272, and the 13th Century saw a number of building projects, including a new tower, tower and refectory. But the turning point came in 1327, when the deposed King Edward II died at nearby Berkeley castle (by tradition, in particularly grisly fashion), and was brought here for burial.

His son, Edward III, had a magnificent tomb erected in honour of his dead father, and it soon became a place of pilgrimage. This provided the funds for a major programme of rebuilding in the Perpendicular Gothic style, including the famous cloisters, south porch, west front, the tower, Lady Chapel and new vaults over the choir. The abbey survived the dissolution of the monasteries through its elevation to cathedral in 1541 - the presence of a royal tomb may have helped ensure its survival - a role it has performed ever since.

The interior reflects the contrast between the robust Romanesque architecture of the Norman period and the soaring fan vaults of the Perpendicular. The cloisters in particular - among the earliest examples of fan vaulting - are celebrated for their beauty. Its fittings are a match for the architecture: the great east window is partly filled with glass dating from 1350, and more 15th century glass is found in the Lady Chapel.

Notable tombs include the magnificent tomb of Edward II, with its extraordinary clusters of pinnacles; and the lovely wooden wooden effigy of Robert Curthose (1054-1134). he was the eldest son of William the Conqueror, was Duke of Normandy (1087-1106), and the unsuccessful claimant to the English throne. It is a perfect depiction of early Norman military dress, though it dates from a hundred years after his death.

Today, the cathedral is famous as one of the homes of the three choirs festival, one of the oldest classical festivals and dating from the early 18th century. It also has the usual cycle of services, festivals and events that characterise modern cathedral life.

College Green, Gloucester, GL1 2LX

All Saints, Hereford

This interesting mediaeval city-centre church is a short walk from the city's cathedral, and well worth a visit in its own right.

The first church on the site was probably erected around 1200, but rebuilt later in the 13th and in the 14th centuries, possibly because of earthquake damage. Most of the present structure was in place by 1330. The church underwent a major restoration in 1997, which included major work to the tower and spire which both twists and leans.

The church has a spacious nave with north and south aisles and a west tower. The nave arcades are classic Early English gothic, and are complemented by Decorated and Perpendicular Gothic windows and the very high ceilings. The south aisle chapel has 17th century fittings, but the 14th century choir stalls in the chancel and north aisle chapel steal the show: they are very fine, and have misericords with classic decorative themes. There is also a Jacobean pulpit (c. 1621) and a 16th century font in which David Garrick, the actor and theatre manager, was baptised in 1717. A beam in the south gallery has an interesting 'rude' carving, and adjacent is a 19th century window depicting Christmas, complete with a little boy opening his new GWR railway locomotive.

The western end of the nave and south gallery now form part of a very popular cafe. On my visit there was also an art fair in the south chapel, ensuring this church is busy throughout the week.

High Street, Hereford, HR4 9AA

Saturday, 20 July 2013

St George, Esher

St George's is a delightful church tucked away in the centre of Esher. Now in the care of the Churches conservation Trust, it is a rare example of a post-reformation Tudor church with Stuart and Hanoverian fittings, and had important royal connections in the 19th century.

There has been a church here since at least the 13th century, but the present church was rebuilt in the 1540s, one of the first after the Reformation. The nave and chancel date from the period, and the oak roof beams are original. The woodem clock turret was added in the 17th century.

The Newcastle Pew - effectively a semi-private chapel - was added in 1725, for Thomas Pelham-Holles, Duke of Newcastle, from Claremont, and his brother Henry Pelham of Esher Place. It is technically a chamber-pew, and the opening has a classical pediment of Corinthian columns. The carved reredos behind the altar also dates from this period. The north aisle and galleries were inserted in 1812. 

Princess Charlotte, daughter of George IV (and heir to the throne until her death in 1817), her husband Leopold, first King of the Belgians, his niece the young Princess - later Queen - Victoria, with Prince Albert and their family, all worshipped at St George’s during the 19th century.

The church is now empty of pews, and is notable for a fine collection  of monuments. In the north aisle is the memorial to Queen Charlotte, given by the Duchess of Albany in 1910. A plaque on the west gallery commemorates Sir Thomas Lynch, created Governor of Jamaica in 1671. He was a successful sugar planter and introduced cane sugar to Britain. His wife, Lady Vere Lynch (d. 1681), is depicted in the oil painted memorial in the chancel. There are many memorial hatchments, and a fine triple-decker pulpit.

The church is open for visitors on summer Saturdays 11am-3pm, with a key available at other times Mondays to Saturdays during office hours.

4 Esher Park Avenue, Esher, Surrey KT10 9PX

Thursday, 11 July 2013

All Saints, Kingston-upon-Thames

All Saints dominates the centre of Kingston, lending a traditional feel to the centre of the modern borough, which was once a thriving and important market town.

The town's name derives from its association with the Saxon kings of Wessex: king Egbert held a council here in 838 and several Saxon kings were crowned here in the 10th century, among them Edward the Elder, Athelstan, and the infamous Ethelred the Unready. There must have been a church here then, but the present church was begun in 1120 by Gilbert, Sheriff of Surrey.

Much altered since, the oldest parts of the structure are the four 13th century crossing pillars, which encase earlier Norman work. The nave was widened in the 14th century and the Holy Trinity Chapel was added in 1477. The St James chapel - now the baptistery - was also added in the 15th century, with its fine three-bay arcade. Adjacent to the south transept outside are the scant remains of the Saxon chapel of St Mary, demolished in the 18th century.

The tower - which originally had a spire - was damaged by lightning in the 15th century and not rebuilt until 60 years later. The tower was rebuilt again in brick in 1708 and refaced in 1973. The exterior and windows were substantially renewed in the 19th century.

The interior is characterised by having a central altar under the crossing, moved there in 1978-9. Although largely Victorian in feel, the abundance of earlier monuments provides most of the interest: the tomb chests in the Holy Trinity Chapel may include those of its benefactor, Robert Mylam (d. 1498); there is a brass to Katherine Hertcombe (that to her husband John, d. 1488 is missing); an extraordinarily fine pair of brasses in the baptistery to Robert (d. 1437), a local lawyer, and Joanna Skerne, his wife and an illegitimate daughter of Edward III. Adjacent to that is the magnificent Jacobean monument to Sir Anthony Benn (d. 1618) in his lawyer's robes. There is also a restored mediaeval wall painting of St Blaise in the south transept.

The church is currently undergoing a major restoration, which should be completed at the end of 2014.

The Market Place, Kingston-upon-Thames KT1 1JP

Christ Church, West Wimbledon

Christ Church is a rather homely  and rustic example of Victorian Gothic revival, by the architect Samuel Teulon, a well known builder and restorer of churches.

Like many churches in the area, the need for additional places of worship was stimulated by the arrival of the railway in 1838, and an appeal for  funds for a church at the top of Copse Hill - until 1925 a countrified lane - was launched in 1857. The church was dedicated in 1859, a south transept was added in 1860 and the nave extended westwards in 1881 by Charles Maylard.

The exterior is of Kentish ragstone with Bath stone dressings. The church has an aisled nave of six bays, a south transept, and north and south porches, but the dominant feature is the massive but squat crossing tower with a pyramidal cap and conical stair turret, which gives a rustic, Germanic appearance. Inside, there is a fine hammerbeam roof with arched braces and traceried spandrels. The windows have geometrical and decorated tracery: the east and west windows have five lights and are particularly attractive.

The church is the centre of a busy parish life with an active junior church.

2 Cottenham Park, London, Greater London SW20 0RZ

Saturday, 6 July 2013

St James, Piccadilly

St James’s is a famous landmark on Piccadilly, and an excellent of the work of Sir Christopher Wren.

The church was built in 1872-84 on land set aside by the Earl of St Albans, to serve the growing population of the area after the laying out of St James’s Square. Wren’s designs had made provision for a steeple (tower and spire) at the west end, which turned into something of a saga, as the foundations were inadequate and cracks appeared as the original spire were being added. After remedial work, settlement stopped, but not until the original spire had been taken down and replaced.

The church had only relatively minor alterations and restorations in the succeeding years, but was badly damaged by bombing in May 1940, when incendiaries burned the roof. Fortunately, some of the best fittings (including carvings by Grinling Gibbons, and the organ) had been specially protected. It was restored in 1947-54, although the tower was reduced in height.

The church is of brick with Portland stone dressings, with large round-headed windows. The interior is whitewashed with the decorative plasterwork picked out in gold. The nave has galleries on three sides, with a barrel-vaulted roof supported on Corinthian columns, with side vaults for the windows.

The celebrated reredos has carvings by Grinling Gibbons. The font – installed in 1686 – is also attributed to Grinling Gibbons, and has a stem representing the Tree of Knowledge (complete with snake) and the figures of Adam and Eve either side. William Blake as baptised in the font in 1757.

The church has a wide reputation for social justice and inclusion with daily services. It is also a popular concert venue. There is a small but tranquil church garden to the west of the tower, and the forecourt has been home to a market since 1981, with food, antiques and crafts sold on different days.

197 Piccadilly, London W1J 9LL

St Mary-at-Hill, London

Tucked away on Lovat Lane, St-Mary-at-Hill is one of London's oldest churches. Although much rebuilt, it has a surprisingly light and spacious interior.

The church is first mentioned in 1177, but may have existed as early as the 11th century, being on the route from Billingsgate Quay to the City. The steep rise from the river gave the church its name 'St Mary on the hill'. It had close links with the nearby fish market at Billingsgate, and the famous composer Thomas Tallis was organist here 1538-9.

The interior of the church was badly damaged in the Great Fire in 1666, but, under the guidance of Sir Christopher Wren, it was rebuilt and reopened by 1677.

The original surviving north and south walls were retained, as well as the brickwork of the tower, but the church was extended to the east and new windows inserted. The new interior had a coffered dome and barrel vaults in a Greek Cross pattern, supported on four large Corinthian columns. The tower was replaced by the present design in 1787-8, and the interior was modified in 1848-9 with new ceilings and plasterwork, and two new windows, cut into the chancel vault.

Surviving the Blitz in 1940, the church - which until then had 'the least spoiled and the most gorgeous interior in the City' according to Betjeman - succumbed to fire in 1988, which gutted the interior. The restoration retained the organ and the 17th century woodwork at the west end, but the pews were replaced by chairs and the reredos by the present large curtain.

The church does however retain some interesting wall monuments, as well as the fine William Hill organ installed in 1848. It is now much in demand as a concert venue. The parish services are held on Wednesday lunchtimes, with a Lutheran congregation on Sundays.

 Lovat Lane, London EC3R 8EE

Thursday, 20 June 2013

St James, Shere

This large village church stands near the centre of the picturesque settlement of Shere, and nestles in a valley close to the ridge of the North Downs.

The nave and lower stages of the tower are Norman, built around 1150-90, to which a large south aisle was added in the 13th century. The church was lengthened and the chancel rebuilt in the early 14th century. Later additions include the fine north transept window of Curvilinear tracery from the 15th century, and a churchyard lych gate by Lutyens.

The outside is dominated by the robust tower, which carries an equally robust broach spire. The south side has a fine Norman door, but the main entrance today is through the west entrance, which has a fine (and heavy) 17th century panelled door, and leads under  an 18th century west gallery.

Inside, the elegant arcade of octagonal piers separates the nave from the south aisle that is so large is feels like a double nave. The arches through to the chancel are early 14th century replacements, but there is a fine 13th century arch between the south aisle and south chapel with detached marble shafts.

The fixtures and fittings are of particular interest. Several windows have fragments of mediaeval glass, and the font of Purbeck marble, with a central stem and four corner shafts, dating to around 1170.  The church has some notable brasses: the oldest, dated 1417, is of the rector, Robert Scarclyff, wearing his vestments; on the floor is a large memorial to John Touchet, Lord Audley, (1423-1490). He lies resplendent in full plate armour. Close by is a brass to John Redford (d. 1516) and his wife, with his six children in mourning. On the wall of Lady Chapel is a small brass of a lady, dated 1520.

However, of more curious interest is the squint and quatrefoil window on the north wall of the chancel, originally openings to the cell of an anchorite, Christine Carpenter. Anchorites were hermits, often devout teenage girls, walled up (until death) in cells attached to churches. They prayed and gave advice and in return were given food and provided with the sacraments. Christine was interred in 1329, but seems to have left and was ordered to return on ‘pain of death’ in 1332.
The Square, Shere, Guildford, Surrey GU5 9HG

St Mary, Stoke D'Abernon

Believed to have been begun in the last decade of the 7th century, Stoke D’Abernon’s church contains an astonishing collection of monuments and furnishings from the subsequent centuries and is well worth a visit. It’s a little hard to find: the manor house is now a private school, and so the church is within the school’s grounds.


The church is believed to have been found in the 690s as the church of a local Saxon Lord or Thegn. The south wall of the nave dates from this period and, at first floor level, contains a door the Thegn would have used to access his private gallery (via an external staircase). The church was enlarged in the 1190s by the addition of a north aisle, and the present chancel was built around 1240 to replace the original Saxon apse. On the north side of the chancel a chantry chapel was built in 1485 by Sir John Norbury as a thank offering for his safe return from the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

The church underwent restoration and modification in 1852 and 1866. The 1852 work included replacing the original Saxon chancel arch with a pointed arch, on the original piers, but worse was to come in 1866 when all was swept away to erect the present wide arch – a tragic loss. The later work also included extending the church to the west, adding another bay to the arcade and erecting the present rather incongruous bell-tower.

The church

From the outside, first appearances are deceptive: the tower and the restored walls of knapped flint make the church look almost Victorian: but the windows of the Norbury chapel are clearly original Perpendicular Gothic work. On entering, the Saxon doorway is visible high on the south wall. The easterly two arches of the arcade are original Transitional work, resting on circular piers, the original (east) pier bearing a faint original image of the Crucified Christ, along with two later pilgrim crosses scratched into the surface. The east chancel wall bears the remains of a mediaeval wall painting of the adoration of the lamb.

It’s hard to know exactly where to start with the fittings and furnishings, but pride of place surely goes to the two large brasses in the chancel floor, to Sir John D’Abernon (d. 1325) and his son, also Sir John (d. 1335-50). The oldest military brass in existence, the older D’Abernon is clad in chain mail and carries both a lance and sword, whereas his son is in later plate armour. There are 6 other brasses around the church, dating up to the Tudor period.

The nave does not miss out either: there is a large late 12th century Crusade Chest (used to collect offerings for the crusades), a fine 17th century eagle lecturn, a stone statue from Italy  the Madonna and child, still with its original paint, dating from around 1500; and finally, a magnificent late Elizabethan walnut pulpit, heptagonal in shape, and superbly carved with geometric patterns, soldiers, angels - and some very peculiar half-human monsters which act as brackets for the legs, which were possibly carved in central America, from hackberry wood.

Moving into the Norbury Chapel, there are more magnificent memorials, this time from the 17th century and with life-sized painted effigies. Sir Thomas and Lady Vincent (d. 1613 and 1613) lie together (he on the upper level and in full armour) on the north wall, while on the east wall, their daughter-in-law Sarah Vincent (d. 1608) lies in a splendid Jacobean outfit, with her five sons and two daughters depicted as mourners below. Her husband, who remarried, is buried with his second wife.

Next to Lady Sarah is a late 17th century wall monument to Sir John Norbury (d. 1521). This was a replacement for the original monument, which lay under the arch between the chapel and chancel, and was probably destroyed during a Puritan purge. Above hang his crest, funerary helmet and tabard. Below is the monument to Sir Edgar Vincent (d. 1941), the last of the Vincent line. He was British Ambassador to Berlin in the 1920s, and his monument contains a Roman funerary casket from the 2nd century AD.

After these riches, the final task is to look at the impressive collection of mediaeval and renaissance glass, dating from the 13th to 17th centuries. Although little is original – most was brought here in the 19th and 20th centuries – it is an important collection in its own right. The baptistery window has original 16th century glass from the Norbury chapel and includes St Mary being taught to tread by her mother Anne.

The church has regular services and is also open for visitors limited hours on summer weekends.

Stoke D'Abernon, Cobham, Surrey. KT11 3PX

Thursday, 30 May 2013

All Saints, Holbeach

Holbeach has a large parish church which dates from the 14th century, almost entirely in the Decorated Gothic style, with some interesting furnishings and fittings.

The church was built largely from 1340-80, with the addition of the porch in c. 1700. The main Victorian addition was the heavy and dark stained glass.

From the outside, the church is dominated by its tall spire, built in the 14th century, but remodelled in the 15th. The porch has distinctive turrets on either side of the door, doubtless giving rise to the contention that it came from Moulton Castle. Once inside, the nave is dominated by the elegant Decorated Gothic arcade of 7 bays, supported by quatrefoil piers, built around 1350. The chancel arch is slightly later, c. 1360, next to which are the remains of the staircase to the rood loft. The Decorated Gothic windows which fill the walls are a wonderful combination of ogee arches and fleur-de-lis - textbook patterns of curvilinear tracery. They would be so much nicer with clear glass.

Much of the furnishing is Victorian, but the font is mid 14th century, and in the north aisle are tombs of special interest. Pride of place goes to the tomb chest and effigy of Sir Humphrey Littlebury of Holbeach Hurn, (d. c.1380). His effigy, in full plate and mail armour, is well preserved. It has a sword belt, sword and shield, his feet resting on a lion and his head on a helm - decorated with the rather alarming image of a woman's face. The tomb chest below has elaborate niches of ogee arches. Adjacent, on the floor, is a brass of a knight which has sadly lost its head, and against the wall is a tomb chest bearing a memorial brass of Joan Welby, d. 1488.

The church is the centre of a busy parish life, with regular services and a tea shop open in the modernised tower space.

Church Street, Holbeach, Lincolnshire PE12 7LL

All Saints, Moulton

Moulton is a pretty village close to Spalding, known for having the tallest windmill in the country. The church has an imposing tower and spire and can be seen for miles around.

The church dates largely from 1180, but was much altered in the 14th and 15th centuries, and restored in the 19th. The tower and spire are the main draw on the outside: the windows were inserted in the 15th century, but most of the fabric, including the spire supported on tall flyers, is 14th century. The tower is decorated with some wonderfully elaborate blind arcading.

Inside, the long nave with its arcade supported on robust piers is largely 12th century, with the 15th century clerestory windows having been inserted to the 12th century fabric. The 19th century restoration was rather heavy, but at least restored the fine late 14th century rood screen. There is an interesting early 18th century font, supported by figures of Adam and Eve.

The church supports a busy parish life with regular services and social events.

High Street, Moulton, Spalding, Lincolnshire PE12 6QB

St Mary, Weston (near Spalding)

Weston has a delightful parish church, with a dark and atmospheric interior.

The church dates from 1170, with a tower added in the 15th. It was restored by two of the giants of 19th century ecclesiastical architecture, George Gilbert Scott in 1858 and and J L Pearson in 1885.

The interior retains much from the original building, including the Early English porch, nave arcades and the chancel. This has triple lancets at the east end, and more lancets on the north and south sides, all with deep recesses. The nave arcade has splendid piers, each with detached shafts and a generous band of stiff leaf carving on the capitals. The aisle and transept windows are Decorated Gothic in style, and mostly filled with heavy Victorian glass.

Furnishings of interest are limited, except the font, dated 1200, which is decorated with panels divided by attached shafts, containing flowing fleur-de-lis. The gloomy interior is enlivened by a bright display of tapestry kneelers.

High Road, Weston, Spalding, Lincolnshire PE12 6HS

St Mary Magdalene, Gedney

The small Lincolnshire village of Gedney possesses a magnificent mediaeval parish church. From a distance, it seems almost to float along the fenland, with much to interest the visitor.

From a distance, the church could almost be mistaken for a cathedral, with its handsome tower and tall, clerestoried nave. Begun in the 13th century, the church has architecture of all the major Gothic periods, including Early English (largely confined to the lower stages of the tower), Decorated and Perpendicular. The west wall of the nave shows the roof line to have been raised twice, once in the 14th and then later in the 15th centuries. The chancel was substantially altered in the 19th century.

The church is comprised of a large aisled nave, west tower, chancel, and a two-storeyed porch. The stumpy spire is the only disappointment, clearly a compromise, presumably over fears the foundations would not support anything taller.

As you enter the church, you immediately encounter one of its treasures: a rare, original mediaeval wooden door, decorated with heraldic devices and with an original, smaller wicket door within. Once inside the nave, all is space and light: most of the extensive glass is clear, although there are patches of mediaeval glass, most notably a Jesse window in the east window of the north aisle. A small window in the south wall of the chancel has a delightful mediaeval depiction of Christ, presumably with St John the Divine - or possibly the window's donor? - looking on in rapture.

The graceful octagonal arcade columns are from the Decorated period, and many of the nave windows have beautiful flowing tracery. The nave ceiling dates from the 15th century, with tie beams, roof bosses and a single hammerbeam. Both the arcade, and the 15th century clerestory above it, have label stops and corbels with the heads of angels, kings and queens, ogres and some delightful representations of common ailments such as deafness and toothache.

In the south aisle is an early 15th century brass of a woman with a puppy at her feet, and behind the adjacent side altar are the remains of a 13th century tomb effigy over a large 15th century carved tomb chest. Above them is the magnificent memorial to Alard Welby and his wife Cassandra, erected in 1605. There are many other items of interest - much of the woodwork is late mediaeval or Jacobean, and the font base is dated 1664 (the font itself being late mediaeval).

The church hosts regular services and is also used by the children from the adjacent primary school.

Church End, Gedney, Spalding, Lincolnshire PE12 0BU

St Mary Magdalene, Sandringham

St Mary Magdalene is well known as the church that the Queen attends at Christmas at Sandringham. Although a parish church, the extensive interior decoration and royal memorials are evidence of its close royal links since the late 19th century.

The building itself is made of the distinctive dark brown carstone, set off by white stone dressings. Although mediaeval in origin, the largely 15th century church was heavily rebuilt in the 19th century, first by the architect Samuel Sanders Teulon in 1855 and then by Arthur Blomfield in 1890.

From the outside, it looks like an ordinary parish church, with a west tower, porch, nave and a small chancel, a small north aisle and south transept. Inside, the church has an intimate atmosphere, but the elaborate decoration is clear evidence that it is not your average parish: the chancel in particular has a complex decorative scheme of painted panels and roof in the 15th century style.

There are fragments of 15th and 17th century glass, but the eye is inevitably drawn to the furnishings: the striking altar frontal is of beaten silver and was a gift in memory of Edward VII. The pulpit similarly has decorative beaten silver panels. The walls are covered in memorials of royals, from Princess Alice in 1879 to the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, along with some of Sandringham Estate workers who died in the Great War.

Outside, are the graves of Prince John (1905-19), son of George V, and of Prince Alexander John (d. 1871), youngest son of Edward VII, who died after one day, having been born prematurely.

The church is open for visitors in the summer months and only for services in the winter. Photographs are not permitted of the interior. There is a small shop selling guides, cards, and gifts at the rear.

Sandringham Estate, Sandringham, Norfolk PE35 6EH

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Crowland Abbey

Crowland Abbey is a magnificent building - now part church, part ruin, near Spalding in Lincolnshire, with an interesting but turbulent history.


The abbey was founded in memory of St Guthlac (673-714), a monk who founded a hermitage on the island of Crowland in the 8th century. King Aethelbald of Mercia founded a monastery on the island in 716 in his honour, but it was destroyed in a Danish raid in 866. Refounded as a Benedictine house in the reign of King Edred (reigned 946-955), it was destroyed by fire in 1091, but rebuilt about twenty years later. Another fire burned the abbey again in 1170, after which it was rebuilt once more.

Thereafter, it thrived until the dissolution in 1539, by which time it had become one of the wealthiest abbeys in the country.
The remains were fortified by the Royalists during the Civil War and damaged further by the Roundhead forces. The nave roof fell in 1720, the main south wall was taken down in 1744. The north aisle survived the troubles, however, as it had long functioned as the parish church, and still does today.

The church

The west front of the abbey is startling: the north aisle has a robust tower, built in the 12th-15th centuries, next to the remains of the great west front of the nave, all niches and statues. Above the former west door is a superb 14th century quatrefoil carving with images of the life of St Guthlac. Looking along the length of the former nave, the view is framed by the delicate remains of the Romanesque Crossing arch. To the south of the west front, fragmentary remains of the original west end of c. 1165, include some fine blind arcading.

Inside, the former aisle is impressive. It was remodelled in the 15th century and has superb vaulting, as well as a magnificent panelled tower arch. Fittings and furnishings are of great interest. The early 15th century chancel screen has panels decorated with images of angels, dragons, flowers, fish and one with Guthlac in his boat. Above is a lovely ceiling boss of a Green Man.

There is an octagonal 15th century font, and the tower arch has a large stoup incorporating a 12th century drum font under a cusped arch. Close by are two interesting tomb stones: one, very small, is ascribed to enclosing a crusader's heart, but is more likely to be Saxon; the other is to the mason William de Wermington, (d. 1427) depicting him holding his compasses and set square.

Today, the church hosts regular services in the Anglo-Catholic tradition.

Monday, 27 May 2013

St Mary's (RC), Newport

This is a very attractive Victorian Roman Catholic church, just up Stow Hill from Newport City centre.


A small chapel was built on the site of the then-expanding seaport and industrial centre in 1812, but the town's continued growth meant that a larger church was soon needed, and the original chapel was demolished in 1839. The new church was built in the neo-Gothic style, with a prominent tower at the west end, which also formed the main entrance. Inside, the nave arcade was built with slender columns made of cast iron - the first such use of metal pillars in Wales.

The construction of St Mary’s took place around the same time as the Chartist uprising; the Chartist rioters passed the church and ordered workmen to join them, although they declined. In 1901 the original east window was replaced by one of the Assumption of the Virgin by John Hardman, who worked with the Pugins.

The church

The church is essentially in the Early English Gothic style, with tall lancets with shafts and hoods, and the slender piers have frilly stiff-leaf capitals. The most notable feature of the church from the outside is its tower, the muscular design of which, decorated with abundant blind arcading, provides a distinct contrast with the light and airy interior. Indeed, the pale pink walls with white arcades and detailing gives almost a wedding-cake like appearance.

Today, the church is part of the united parish of 'All Saints' in Newport, formed in 2007 and incorporating six former parishes. Although the interior is not open outside service times, the outer doors are kept open, allowing one a good view into the nave.

 9 Stow Hill, Newport, Wales NP20 1TP

All Saints, Barry

All Saints church is one of Barry’s most imposing landmarks: set high on the crest of a hill, its tower can be seen from along the coast.

The decision to build a new Anglican church in Barry was taken in response to the rapid growth of the town in the late 1880s, following the construction in 1884 of the Barry Railway and Barry Docks. To begin with, much of the town was built hurriedly in wood, before the more familiar brick terraces began to be built. The original parish church of St Nicholas, overlooking the harbour, was no longer large enough for the fast growing new town. So, in 1902 a decision was taken to built a new church, named All Saints, on land vacated by the Admiralty, to plans by the local architect E M Bruce Vaughan. Construction began in 1907 and the church was consecrated in 1908. A second stage of building began the same year, including the familiar tower, and was completed in 1915. The ‘mother’ church of St Nicholas was closed in the 1950s.

The new church was largely built in the early Decorated Gothic style. The plan has large north and south aisles, a broad nave with simple Gothic arcades on round piers, and a chancel. The church retains much of its original appearance, although it has chairs rather than the traditional pews. For me, the interior is rather more successful architecturally than the exterior, which looks somewhat uninspiring - and its setting is not helped by being flanked by some rather dull, grey blocks of flats.

Worship is in a middle-of-the-road style, and the church has an active congregation and busy parish life, with a number of different groups meeting during the week (see website for details). The daughter church of St Baruc’s in Barry Island is also part of the parish.

Park Road, Barry, Wales CF62 6NU

Monday, 6 May 2013

Peterborough Cathedral

Peterborough has one of England’s best preserved large Norman churches. The former abbey has had a colourful past – raided by Vikings, attacked by both rebel Saxons and Cromwellian troops, and burned down twice. It is also the burial place of Katherine of Aragon and the temporary burial place of Mary, Queen of Scots. It is now known formally as the Cathedral Church of St Peter, St Paul and St Andrew.


The Anglo-Saxon King Peada founded a monastery on the site in 655 although, like many, it was destroyed in a Viking raid in 870. Rebuilt as a Benedictine Abbey in 970, it survived a further attack around 1069, this time from Hereward the Wake, only to be destroyed by an accidental fire in 1116.

The present building was built largely between 1118 and 1238, although the central tower was rebuilt in the Decorated Gothic style 1350-80. The East End was extended behind the apse to form a retrochoir in the Perpendicular Gothic style, between 1496 and 1508. Much of the cost of building the cathedral was funded by Pilgrims visiting some of the relics of St Thomas a Beckett, brought to Peterborough by Abbott Benedict – a former Prior of Canterbury - in 1177.

Katherine of Aragon (Henry VIII's first wife) was buried here in 1536. After the dissolution of the monasteries, it became the Cathedral of the new Diocese of Peterborough in 1541. It was the also burial place of Mary, Queen of Scots, from her execution in 1587 until her reburial in Westminster Abbey in 1612. The cathedral was severely damaged during the Civil War by Cromwell’s troops in 1643, but restored by J L Pearson in 1882-6.

The Church

The most notable external feature is the unique great west portico, consisting of three huge arches in the Early English Gothic style, flanked by square buttresses decorated with Gothic blind arcading and topped with tall pinnacles. The narrower centre arch had a smaller porch inserted into it in the late 14th century.

Inside, the long nave of 10 bays is one of the best preserved examples of Norman (Romanesque) architecture in the country. Of particular interest is the wooden ceiling, a very rare survival, built in 1230-50 and consisting of lozenge-shaped panels decorated with figures of kings, queens, saints and monsters.

The crossing, transepts and choir are also Norman work, and contrast sharply with the Perpendicular retrochoir, which is notable for its profusion of fan vaulting. Most of the nave and choir windows were renewed in the 14th and 15th centuries, but only two windows above the High Altar retain fragments of mediaeval glass.

Cromwell’s troops destroyed many of the original fittings and furnishings, although the monument to Abbot Hedda (c. 800), caved with images of Jesus and Mary and ten disciples, survives in the East End. Also extant are a number of marble effigies of Abbots dating between 1195 and 1225, and a fine carved 13th century font in the nave. A marble slab on the north choir aisle denotes the resting place of Katherine of Aragon (1485-1536) and in the opposite aisle the location of the former tomb of Mary, Queen of Scots is marked. An interesting picture hanging at the west end of the nave depicts Robert Scarlett (1496-1594), a gravedigger who buried both Katherine and Mary, and who lived to the age of 98.

Today, the cathedral provides regular daily services and has a renowned choir, which sings a daily Evensong as well as during the Sunday services. It is open every day for visitors, except Boxing Day.

 Minster Precincts, Peterborough PE1 1XS

Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Sacred Heart (RC), Wimbledon

The Sacred Heart is Wimbledon's Catholic parish church and a prominent landmark on the ridge between Wimbledon and Raynes Park.

The church was funded by Edith Arendrup, a member of the Courtauld family who, having moved to Wimbledon, persuaded the Jesuits to begin a mass at her home in 1877. Seven years later she paid for the building of the present church, to designs by the architect Fredrick Walters (1849-1931), who also designed Buckfast Abbey. The nave was completed in 1887 and the rest of the building by 1901. A planned tower was replaced by twin turrets flanking the west front.

The exterior is of knapped flints with stone dressings. Designed in the decorated Gothic style, the interior resembles an abbey: an aisled nave, beneath a tall clerestory, leads to a chancel with an ambulatory and radiating chapels. The dimensions are impressive: the nave is 100ft long and 60ft high. The arcades carry niches with saints connected with the Jesuit Order. The church has numerous late Victorian and 20th century fittings, the best of which are found in the St Ignatius Chapel in the north aisle.

The church normally has three daily masses (six on a Sunday, plus a Saturday night vigil mass) and is the centre of a vibrant parish life.

 Edge Hill, Wimbledon, London SW19 4LU

St John the Baptist, Peterborough

St John's is Peterborough's parish church, and sits in the centre of Cathedral Square, a few minutes' walk from the Cathedral.

Although Peterborough has had a parish church since the 11th century, flooding of the original site to the east of the abbey led to it being rebuilt in 1402 on the present site, and it was dedicated in 1407. It was much restored in the Victorian period, by the architect J L Pearson, architect of Truro Cathedral. The north porch dates from 1473.

Its bells sounded for the funerals of both Katharine of Aragon (1536) and Mary, Queen of Scots (1587) in the cathedral. The church sexton, Robert Scarlett, buried both Queens, and is himself buried in the cathedral, having died in 1594 at the age of 98. A portrait of him hangs at the west end of the cathedral.

The exterior is largely in the Perpendicular Gothic style, church itself has a long nave arcade and aisles, with a chancel and Lady Chapel, but no crossing. The most prominent external feature is the tower. The 15th century south porch is the best preserved part of the building, and its vault has attractive bosses depicting the Trinity, Annunciation and Crucifixion.

Furnishings of interest (most are Victorian or 20th century) include a 15th century font, and two rare framed examples of 15th century embroidery, probably from church vestments. The monument to the local MP, Matthew Wyldbore, d. 1781, is the most impressive of several in the church.

The church is open twice a week with a cafe at the west end, as well for services, which are traditional in style.

Church Street, Cathedral Square, Peterborough PE1 1XB