Cambridgeshire Churches

Pampisford, St John the Baptist

a locked door at Pampisford...

Despite being in the middle of quite a big village, St John was locked, without any keyholders listed, nor a vicar (the living is vacant at present and it looks like the Diocese intends to keep it that way for a while). This is a pity. I suppose it's fair enough to keep a church locked if you have reason to believe it's in danger from vandalism - though the main ecclesiastical insurers recommend that churches are kept open. The least that can be done is listing a few keyholders: at least this way people who are interested can get inside (even if unkempt twenty-somethings like myself have to endure suspicious looks in the process). Grr.

It was particularly irritating here. Inside a very elegantly traceried wooden porch is a splendid Norman doorway. In the tympanum are ten little round arches with figures in them, facing towards a single figure in the central arch. It's very crude, but all the more exciting for that - reminiscent of Norse work, if anything.

We visited again, a few years later, when we were more experienced, and a bit less likely to be put off. Mark had the excellent idea of telephoning the person listed as the church caretaker, and she very kindly gave us the key. Alas, I’m not sure it was worth troubling her. The interior is unremittingly grim. Some ancient masonry survives – the north wall of the nave is Norman, with an Early English arcade cut through it to the north aisle – but the general impression one gets is of nineteenth-century darkness. The stalls, glass, roof and chancel were all horrible and Victorian.

I did quite like the rood screen – it has a frieze of quatrefoil-shaped openings running just below the dado rail, which I’ve not seen before – but that was about it. To top it all off, in the west end of the north aisle there are some pictures of the church as it used to be before the rebuilding, with nice big Perpendicular windows in the nave and chancel, and a cheery little brick porch. Oh dear.

St John was locked, with no keyholders listed.

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