I came to this church from the haunting church of St John the Baptist, a mile down the road to the east. St John is a lovely piece of architecture, but is now redundant, and serves mostly as a home for bats. Why, I wondered, didn’t they make the Victorian church here redundant, and keep St John for active worship when they made their decision in 1974? Couldn’t the villagers be bothered to go just a little further to keep the older building alive?
Filled with these thoughts, I found myself very ill-disposed towards Emmanuel as we drove towards it. I muttered under my breath about how medieval peasants had traipsed miles through the sticky fens to save their souls, and how feeble it was that their 20th century successors couldn’t be bothered to walk for an extra twenty minutes. I envisaged coffee mornings and tombolas, and composed scathing analogies comparing stacking chairs and deep-pile carpets with bare brick floors and batshit on the empty benches.
It was all a bit silly and melodramatic, though. St John is in the good hands of the Churches Conservation Trust, and as a sensible agnostic I shouldn’t really mourn the passing of the medieval church’s reign of terror over men’s souls. And, Emmanuel church really isn’t that bad. It was built in 1872, and is quite a small place – just a hall with an apse at the east end. There’s a little sanctus bell-turret, and a porch on the south side of blackened wood with a steep chocolate-box roof. On the north side is an aisle.
The design is unusual. It is built of red bricks, with horizontal lines of black bricks for decoration, which rise in steps around the apse at the east end. The windows in the south wall of the nave are all different: a single lancet at the west end, a double lancet with a roundel on top in the middle, and a set of triple lancets at the east. It’s very convenient for the village, and I’m sure it’s very comfortable inside (though we couldn’t find any information about how to get a key, alas). Just as long as I was able to keep the image of its gaunt neighbour out of my mind’s eye, I was even able to like it.
Emmanuel Church is kept locked, with no information about keyholders.