Cambridgeshire Churches

Little Chishill, St Nicholas

lovely May weather - good for the gorse!

St Nicholas is perched above the main street of the village - this is hilly country, in the chalk downs of northern Hertfordshire and northwest Essex. Our first attempt to reach it resulted in our riding into someone's front drive. There was a gate into the churchyard, but the dog was barking and it was a bit embarrassing, so we retreated to the main road and parked there. A steep little path climbs through the trees to the church, sitting in amidst the golden yews, pine trees and gorse.

Pine trees and gorse? That would suggest sandy soil rather than chalky, though that might just be the result of my very shaky grasp of botany. I checked my geological map when I got back to Cambridge, though, and Little Chishill is getting rather close to the point where the rock changes from late Cretaceous chalk (which runs up the Chilterns and then through southern Cambridgeshire and the western bits of Suffolk and Norfolk) to Oligocene and Eocene clay. This manifests as the familiar London clay, but it can also involve sand - perhaps a little bit of it is exposed here, at the southernmost church in Cambridgeshire. (It wasn't in Cambridgeshire until relatively recently, actually - like its sister at Great Chishill it was transferred from Essex in 1895 and the church is still in the diocese of Chelmsford).

It's a handsome thing from the outside. The tower is very squat and powerful looking, with a cheery little tiled pyramid cap that looks rather French. Pevsner was unable to date it - although he suggests that it's probably older than the Perpendicular tower arch. The porch - also Perpendicular - is a fine, solid one. It has good stone doorways, inside and out, and nice stone windows (and some blind arcading, too).

On the day we visited, the church was closed, and we didn't get the key (I can't remember whether this is due to the lack of a list of keyholders, or because we were getting hot and bothered). Well worth returning to, though.

St Nicholas was locked when we visited.
I can't remember if there were any keyholders listed.

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