Cambridgeshire Churches

Benwick, St Mary

Samuel Teulon (1812-1873) was rather an unusual Victorian architect. He didn’t seek publicity through entry into competitions (and therefore his career had a very slow start), and, unlike many of his contemporaries he refused to toe the Camden society line. His churches therefore tend to be somewhat unusual, by the standards of Victorian Gothic.

There’s not much work by Teulon in Cambridgeshire, but he was invited to build a parish church here for Benwick in 1850, perhaps as the result of his having received a big commission for estate buildings from the Duke of Bedford in nearby Thorney a couple of years earlier. Benwick had previously been a hamlet in the vast parish of Doddington, along with March. An 1847 Act had divided the parish, and while the parishioners of March were able to convert the splendid St Wendreda from a chapel of ease to a parish church with little difficulty, something new had to be built for Benwick.

It’s another story of 19th century optimism and expansion in the Isle of Ely, and (like many of those stories) it ends rather sadly. Teulon’s church was always plagued by subsidence, and the population of the village never really grew to the point where it could survive as an independent entity. The church was declared redundant, and demolished in 1983.

What is there to say about the church itself? Well, it had a north-west tower that sat at the end of an aisle, with a tiled steeple and what Pevsner describes as ‘busy fenestration’. The building material chosen was carstone from Snettisham in Norfolk, with much paler stone used for window frames and the corners of buildings. I think the effect would have been quite similar to that at Welney.

Apparently there are now plans to erect a new ‘ecumenical place of worship’ on the site of the old church: I wonder what old Teulon would have made of that?

St Mary no longer exists.

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