Cambridgeshire Churches

Steeple Morden, SS Peter and Paul

the steeple at Steeple Morden

The church at Steeple Morden has one of the few south porch towers in Cambridgeshire - indeed, St Michael in Cambridge is the only other one that springs to my mind. Once upon a time, it must have been a fine sight.

The village churches around Steeple Morden all have magnificent towers or spires - most notable of all is Ashwell over the Hertfordshire border, but also Guilden Morden and Litlington in this county - so for the church tower to give the village its name suggests that it was something special.

Unfortunately the records state that it fell in 1633, and all that remains today is an impressive stone stump rising to about twenty feet. It's a fine stump - I particularly liked the twin niches above the doorway, and the porch space within has stone benches conveniently lining the walls.

the wideness of the church

The steeple itself was rebuilt as a wooden belfry and spire; the current structure is from 1866 -Pevsner thinks that it replicates something distinctly older. It's perfectly respectable, but a bit dull.

Sadly, the same can be said of the interior. This is a surprisingly big church, mostly from the 14th century. The nave is wide, and the aisles are wider.

These are later than the nave, and must have replaced earlier ones, because the remains of clerestory windows can be seen above the nave arcades below the level of the current aisle roofs.

These architectural fossils aside, the building is actually quite boring - it has been scrubbed and whitewashed to the point of sterility, and although some windows retain their Perpendicular tracery, I found it static and uninteresting.

the fragment of the Hand

I don't want to give the impression that it's a complete washout, though. There is some interesting glass around. In the chancel windows there are medieval fragments surviving in the upper tracery.

One thing that caught my eye was a delicate hand, now disembodied and re-set in a quatrefoil.

Of the later glass, by far the best pieces are three panels in the west window, made by C.E. Kempe in 1901. They were originally in the church of St Edmund in Forest Gate, London, but were given to Steeple Morden in 2000 by the London Stained Glass Repository. This is a splendid charity that rescues stained glass from churches which are threatened with closure or demolition, and then passes it on to suitable homes. You can find more information about them here.

SS Peter and Paul was open when we visited.

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