Cambridgeshire Churches

Knapwell, All Saints

the ascetic tower of Knapwell

This is one of the most beautiful settings in the county. The churchyard is hidden down a little track lined by horse chestnuts. We rode through the green tunnel for a few hundred metres and then emerged into a cradle of woods and water meadows: very bucolic.

Sadly, All Saints is not a very beautiful church. Aside from the Perpendicular tower what we see now is from 1866, the work of William Fawcett who also rebuilt Longstowe St Mary.

It's not even the first rebuilding: the medieval church had become ruinous by 1753 and the chancel had to be completely rebuilt.

The tower is part of a group thought to have been built by the same mason around 1400: the others are Barton, Caldecote, Coton and Hatley St George. This is by far the plainest of them: it is unbuttressed, and completely unadorned save for a slightly raised stone in the middle of the west parapet. The corners are of stone, but the faces themselves are filled with very crumbly sand-coloured mortar. Despite its plainness, I quite liked the tower: it is pleasingly ascetic.

lowering skies and a victorian apse

On the east face, we can see the old roofline, which was much higher than the current nave. I'm afraid I don't like Fawcett's work very much. Mark has almost persuaded me that I was too harsh about Longstowe, but I'm convinced that I don't like All Saints.

The nave is effectively just a box, built of reddish brown fieldstones and pebbles set into concrete. Plain horizontal courses of dressed stone provide the only real decoration of the outside surface - one is about six feet above the ground, the other another four feet above that.

At the east end is a rather perfunctory rounded apse, and on the south side there is a gable that forms a truncated transept. The window is quite elegant, and must light the interior quite nicely.

There's no porch to speak of, just a stone frame around the south door. The designer has obviously tried to evoke a grander structure - the frame widens near the bottom to simulate corner buttresses - but since the whole thing is only about a foot deep, it's a rather futile effort.

spring arriving at Knapwell

The church was locked, and there wasn't even a noticeboard giving the name of the church, much less any details about keyholders. So, feeling disgruntled, we left All Saints to sleep in its green valley, and headed to bigger and better things at Elsworth.

All Saints is kept locked, without any information about keyholders.

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