Cambridgeshire Churches

Cambridge, St Botolph

a good church, St Botolph

I like St Botolph. The ochre-coloured tower guards the entrance to King's Parade, sitting on the old boundary of the town. It dates from about 1400, and is unlike any other in Cambridge: big diagonal buttresses project out into the street, and figures representing the evangelists sit on the four corners of the parapet.

The church is snug up against Corpus Christi College on the north, but it encloses a pleasant churchyard full of flowers and bushes on the south side.

Also worthy of notice is the splendid ensemble of the south porch and south chapel.

looking east

We don't enter by the south porch, though, but rather through the west door, which opens directly onto the street. It's a particularly dramatic entrance - you step down from the pavement into the base of the tower, and then through the lofty tower arch into the interior.

On a hot, busy day, with with tourists and traffic making the corner of Trumpington Street and Silver Street hellish, this is a welcome sanctuary: cool and quiet.

the Laudian font cover

For such a characteristically Saxon dedication, there's no evidence within the church of anything before the 14th century, though there are records of a Norman church having stood on the site.

The nave and aisles are both early Perpendicular productions from the half-century before 1350, with the tower, the chapel and porch following early in the 15th century. It's all quite spacious and elegant. Bodley rebuilt the chancel in 1872, but it's not bad for all that - Bodley is usually quite competent in my experience.

the splendid tomb in the South Chapel

Next to the west sits the font. It has a splendid Laudian octagonal cover from 1637, a confection of obelisks, balls, pyramids and columns: the sort of thing that I always wished I could make using building blocks when I was little.

[Mark adds:I'm surprised it's still here, as the wretched William Dowsing called here six years later and 'beat down twelve popish inscriptions and pictures' in the church - I can't imagine he would have been much of a fan of the works of Archbisop Laud...]

In the chancel arch, there's the only original rood screen left in Cambridge. It's much restored, and wasn't all that exciting in the first place anyway, but it's still a survivor.

St Botolph is always open during the day.


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