Cambridgeshire Churches

Wicken, St Lawrence

the east end of Wicken church

St Lawrence lies some way to the east of the village, which was rather a nuisance for us since we were riding through the start of a cloudburst and desperately looking for shelter.

We did find it, though, sitting on the edge of the fenland and looking over the fields to its much grander cousin at Soham. I'm not going to be so ungracious to complain about the location, though - I'd imagine that land stable enough to take a church is rather at a premium around here, and at least St Lawrence was open for us.

Upon entering, the first impression I got was of a complete jumble of spaces. Many of the walls lean, and there's what looks like a big buttress in the north aisle shoring up the nave wall. This is a church that has been rebuilt, extended, contracted and reordered more than most.

hardly a straight line anywhere

The 14th century nave is small and dark. Its roof looks impressively ancient, though according to Pevsner the date '1695' is carved onto one of the beams.

By contrast, the 13th century chancel is big and light (though the walls still lean). The windows here might be an illustration from a historical textbook - most styles are represented, from a simple 13th century lancet to the big Perpendicular east window.

I liked this particularly - uncharacteristically restrained for the period. That's not to say that I dislike Perpendicular in its more elaborate incarnations, as at Great St Mary's in Cambridge or in Burwell, but St Lawrence's east window is a nice demonstration of elegance through simplicity.

view to the chancel

In the south aisle there's a very big box pew, with room for a whole family, a couple of dogs (it's so large perhaps a shire pony would fit too). It must have belonged to the local gentry - perhaps the descendents of Margaret (d.1414) and John (d.152) Peyton, whose brasses decorate the floor next to it. The figures are tiny - only about a foot long.

By the time we'd finished exploring the interior, the sun had come out, so we went to have a look at the exterior.

Predictably, St Lawrence is rather muddled on the outside too, all of the walls leaning in opposite directions. I liked it. The tower is nice - hardly tall, but very stout and possessed of fine pinnacles on the corners.

some of the splendid collection of gravestones

The graveyard also deserves a mention - full of gravestones with carved skulls, wings, cherubs, velvety moss and brightly coloured lichens.




St Lawrence was open when we visited.

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