Cambridgeshire Churches

Cambridge, St Andrew the Great

st andrew the great - mark thinks it's a bit grim...

In the days when Cambridge still had gates, this was known as St Andrew without Barnwell Gate. Today there's no gate, but St Andrew still guards the entrance to Petty Cury and Sidney Street, the two main shopping roads. The taxi rank is under the east end, and the Lions Yard shopping centre looms to the west. It's a busy place.

St Andrew's itself, though, is not busy, since (as far as I can see) it is always kept locked. This isn't because it's unused. It was declared redundant in 1984, but after ten years of speculation (which saw plans to turn it into shops or the Tourist Information Office) the congregation of Holy Sepulchre moved here. I'm glad that it's being used for its original purpose once again, but it's a shame that they don't occasionally have it open for visitors or those who want quiet prayer.

a much nicer view, the Gate of Christs College seen across Great St Andrew's churchyard.

I shall describe the exterior, anyway. St Andrew's is a Victorian building - the medieval church was demolished in 1842 and rebuilt to a plan by Ambrose Poynter (who also built St Paul's on Hills Road and Christchurch on Newmarket Road). The style is 15th century East Anglian, and as an essay on the local wool-gothic, it is extremely competent. I find the body of the church a little frigid - perhaps the imitation is so flawless as to lack grace. The tower is very good, though.

[Mark adds: I really don't like this church, it always looks grey - even though actually a rather grubby beige - and is one of those buildings that make you feel as though it's cloudy and drizzling when you look at it. What is it about the victorians that gave them such a genius for this sort of dreary building? Its friendliness quotient is not helped by the fact that it always seems to be closed, surrounded by beggars (Cambridge has more beggars than any town of its size I have ever been to) or locals scurrying, plastic-bags-in-hand, from Sportslocker to HMV to H Samuels.]

Looking through the RCHM volume for Cambridge, the interior looks very interesting. There is no clerestory, so the nave arcades are exceedingly tall. The pillars are cast iron, and very elegant - it is often said that the great Victorian railway stations were the cathedrals of their age, and here we have a bit of industrial architecture creeping back into the ecclesiastical realm.

I have never seen St Andrew's open.
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