Cambridgeshire Churches

Heydon, Holy Trinity

the fifties tower of Heydon

Heydon is one of the few churches in Cambridgeshire where one can see bomb damage, for in 1940 Holy Trinity was hit by a bomb, presumably dropped by a German bomber on the way back from a raid over the midlands.

It destroyed the northern half of the nave, the tower and various other bits.

Still, the church was rebuilt - a surprising thing, really. Then again, it's surprising that Holy Trinity had lasted until 1940. The parishes high in the hills bordering Essex have never been very densely populated, and Heydon was united with Little Chishill in 1800. Normally when that happens, one of the churches is left to decay, but not here.

the inscription on the door

Such a chequered history gives Holy Trinity a poignant atmosphere, but it is also well-loved.

Or so I thought. Maybe I was just being sentimental. Still, it's not often that we get to see an example of 1950s gothic in rural Cambridgeshire. It's not very attractive from the outside - the aisle windows all look slightly odd, and the tower is just a brick box with a little wooden hat on top.

The interior is much better, though. In rebuilding the nave, they took the design from the north arcade from the surviving south side. They've not copied every detail slavishly - the capitals, for example, are much plainer - but it does give balance to the space.

the church before the bombing

Less authentic, but more successful in my opinion, is the space under the tower. The tower is open all the way up to the bell-chamber, and the big space has a narrow staircase winding up the walls. It's dark, and very austere, but very dramatic in a brutalist sort of way.

It is a surprising contrast with the work in the nave, but the juxtaposition works rather well: a three-way dialogue between the 15th century, the 20th century looking backwards and a 1950s conception of the future.

the mosaic reredos

The chancel mostly survived the bombing. It was rebuilt in 1866 in dramatic Victorian style. There aren't any exciting wall-paintings like there are at Hildersham, but I was struck by the japanned steel chandelier hanging in front of the sanctuary.

There is also a good reredos - behind a little arcade of rosy-coloured marble, gold and green mosaic tiles glinting in the gloom.

Why do we like some buildings, and dislike others?

I found myself feeling very warm towards Heydon, which is (to be honest) both ugly and rather uninteresting.

pictures of bomb damage

On the other hand, I have seen buildings which are both beautiful and fascinating, and been left emotionally quite cold.

Maybe it's because I'm a sucker for a good story - and poor Holy Trinity, battered and bruised as it is, can tell us that.

Holy Trinity is kept open.


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