Cambridgeshire Churches

Christchurch, Christ Church


Christchurch is a small village sitting right on the border with Norfolk, deep within the Fens. Like many of the villages in this part of the county, it seems to be a purely Victorian development – a centre of population which sprang up once the mechanical drainage of the Fens had created demand for agricultural labour.

I don’t really like these villages. They feel unsettled and impermanent; clusters of cheap brick houses tossed together carelessly at the whim of some Agro-baron, and now waiting passively for the day when the rivers break their banks and the land sinks into the Wash. Very often, their churches seem the same way. So, it was nice to find that Christ Church has a little more character. It was built in 1864, by John Giles, and is a sizeable building made entirely of brick, aside from a few details in stone. There have plainly been some structural problems – there are cracks appearing in various places on the walls, and especially on the dumpy little buttresses – but the lovely tapestry of moss and lichen woven across the bricks gives it all an air of surprising antiquity. The form is simple enough. The western half is very severe. There is no tower, nor any clerestory, and the nave windows sit in pairs with severe brick moulding over the top. Entry is through a little porch on the south-west corner (though, predictably, we weren’t able to get inside when we visited).

Things get a little more interesting towards the east. There are two transepts, whose north and south windows are formed of chunky stone tracery. Over the crossing is a jaunty little flêche, with the bell-space topped off with a tall spire covered in greenish wooden tiles. The sanctuary is in a rounded apse, with a number of windows picked out in stonework. Between them, engaged pillars rise half-way up the height of the openings and then support a stone course around the apse at that level. It’s not especially elaborate – this was obviously a church built on a very severe budget – but the little bit of adornment makes what might be a rather dismal building seem well-loved and somewhat cheery.

Christ Church was locked, and I could find no information about keyholders.


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