Cambridgeshire Churches

Papworth Everard, St Peter

looking perky - Papworth Everard

There has been a church here since the 14th century, perched on this high slope. It commands a beautiful view down into a little valley, complete with a glorious cedar of Lebanon and a babbling brook away in the distance.

Looking to the west, I thought the view looked more like Herefordshire or a deep vale in the Chilterns: this belt of high land gives the lie that Cambridgeshire is all flat and uninteresting.

Turning to the east, the view is rather less idyllic. Behind the church, the village has expanded into a small town, there to serve the great Papworth Hospital. Papworth does a great job - I dimly remember visiting once when my grandmother was being treated for cancer there - but the village is an ugly, surreal sort of a place: rather as though a council estate from Cambridge had broken away and settled on the edge of the hills here.

one of the good windows

St Peter was almost completely rebuilt in the 1850s by one Mr Charles Cheere. The Cheere family are commemorated throughout the church (the rector was a member of the clan for most of the 19th century) but Charles has the best spot: his chest tomb, surrounded by iron railings, sits outside the west end of the church, gazing down into the woody depths. [Mark adds: it was indeed a most lovely and unexpected valley, with an old house down in it too - much the best part of the village.]

He's been a little bit crowded by an extension to the west end of the church in the 1870s, but it's still a fine place to be buried.

In 1870 a new tower was also built, to replace the old west tower which fell in a hurricane in 1741. Perhaps to avoid disturbing Charles Cheere (or perhaps because the edge of the precipice is ominously close to the west end) it was built on the north side, and doubles up as a porch for the church.

It's an odd design - mostly built of pebbles, but the cross-buttresses are decorated with a strange chequered design that is reminiscent of nearby Papworth St Agnes. Carol Bushnell e-mailed us to say that it once had a spire, too, until it was declared unsafe and removed in the 1950s.

Papworth Everard looking east

The church itself is small and cheerful inside: we found it being cleaned and prepared for a service the following day, and I'm sure it has quite an active congregation.

The screen was quite nice, and I did like the pre-Raphaelite glass in a few of the windows (mostly dedicated to various Cheeres, of course). It does feel more like a glorified hospital chapel now than anything else, but I rather liked it.

St Peter is kept open.

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