Cambridgeshire Churches

Waterbeach, St John the Evangelist

I'm not generally a fan of Victorian restorations. Original Victorian buildings can be splendid - one of my favourite buildings in London is Alfred Waterhouse's Natural History Museum, and in Cambridge some of the finest college buildings can be seen in the entirely Victorian foundations of Selwyn and Newnham. Restorations of medieval parish churches, though, tend to be disappointing, or downright infuriating. Nearby Stretham is a case in point.

Waterbeach, though, is rather good. It is an old church, at heart - the fine transitional tower arch (which is very tall and narrow) and nave arcades demonstrate that. The clerestory is a good Perpendicular affair. There's some old glass in a window of the south aisle. Still, the character of the church is formed by the thorough going-over effected by the Camden Society in the 1870s. It's grand, it's camp, it's a bit silly, but it's actually quite good. I particularly liked the reredos, covered with unutterable pre-raphaelite saints and gold, and the pulpit is a confection of enamel and mosaic, topped with marble tracery. Quite ridiculous, but rather fun.

As we left, we discovered a siamese cat investigating the Snail. As we approached, it leapt down and then curled like smoke through a gap in a hedge.

St John's was open when we visited.

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