Heritage Category: Listed Building

Grade: I

List Entry Number: 1128664

Date first listed: 28-Nov-1950



Ordnance survey map of CHURCH OF ST MARY
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Cambridgeshire

District: Huntingdonshire (District Authority)

Parish: Godmanchester

National Grid Reference: TL 24545 70716


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Reasons for Designation

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Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.




GV I C13, with C14-C15 phases; tower of 1625; restored by George Gilbert Scott in 1853.

MATERIALS: Mainly stone rubble with many pebbles, ashlar dressings and ashlar W tower. Lead roofs and stone spire.

PLAN: Chancel with NE vestries and organ chamber, nave with N and S aisles, two-story N and S porches and W tower.

EXTERIOR: A very large church externally largely of the later middle ages with a tall tower and spire of the early C17. Chancel with a very shallow-pitched roof, low clasping buttresses and low buttresses below the sill of the C19 triple lancet E window, Two-light N chancel window with cinquefoil-headed lights. A lancet in the NE vestry may be reset from the chancel. On the S side, the chancel has a moulded plinth, low, shallow buttresses and three 2-light windows with cinquefoiled lights and Tudor arches under brick relieving arches. Low chamfered priest's door. One of the buttresses has an elegant late C13 mass dial in the shape of a rose window. Round rood stair turret with a conical stone roof in the SE angle between chancel and S aisle.

The nave has Tudor-arched, 2-light clerestory windows of the early C16. The N aisle has diagonal buttresses and 3-light, high transomed Tudor arched windows with Perpendicular tracery. Arches in the masonry above the windows are the remains of earlier windows in the aisle. The N aisle W window is of 5-lights and has a small blocked opening above it. Two storey N porch with diagonal buttresses and a C13 doorway with engaged shafts with capitals. There is a tall slit window on the E side of the upper story and a single light in the gable.

The S aisle has a diagonal SE buttress and a massive 5-light transomed E window with cusped lights below the transom. There are deep buttresses with set-offs on the S side and 2-light S windows similar to the E window. Grand 2-story S porch, probably raised in 1669 (date on roof) with diagonal buttresses. These are lozenge-shaped on plan up to the springing in the arched doorway, but square above that with a groove for rainwater and a gargoyle at the junction. The large doorway has a triangular-headed arch with a baluster finial to the hoodmould, and is flanked by vaulted, gabled statue niches. There is a square-headed window in the gable, and the W and E walls each have a pair of 2-light Tudor arched windows with cinquefoiled lights. The S porch has an internal doorway with nook shafts, flanked by statue niches and a late medieval door. The S porch roof is dated 1669.

Remarkable 4-stage Gothic Survival W tower with a tall, stone spire, dated 1625, replacing an earlier tower of unknown, but possibly C13, date. It is very tall with angle buttresses with multiple coped offsets and stringcourses extending around the buttresses and polygonal SE stair turret. The stair turret rises above the embattled parapet and has slit windows. W doorway with renaissance mouldings to the responds and a date plaque over. There is a pair of Tudor-arched 2-light W windows, similar single windows to the N and S faces of the stage above, and large, paired transomed 2-light belfry windows. The parapet has corner pinnacles and fleur de lys cresting to the merlons. Tall stone spire with 3 tiers of lucarnes.

INTERIOR: Plastered and painted. The late C15 chancel arch is double chamfered with the inner order on shafts with moulded capitals and bases; it reuses many stones from the C13 chancel arch. Above the arch are the tops of two blocked C13 lancets, with the scar of a former, more steeply pitch roof above them. The triple lancet E window has internal shafts and mouldings. There is a C14 door to the C14 NE vestry, and a C13 door is visible inside the C19 vestry. The C19 chancel roof is shallow pitched and has semi-circular wall shafts with moulded capitals.

The N and S aisles have tall, 5-bay arcades of the very late C15 or early C16. The piers have half-round columns with moulded capitals and double chamfered arches on the E and W faces. The arch mouldings are continuous on the N and S faces of the piers. There is a string course below the clerestory. The shallow pitched late medieval nave roof has arched braces on carved stone corbels. The N and S aisle roofs are also late medieval. There are tie beams with arched braces on carved stone corbels on either side, but short posts against the arcade walls rise above the tie beam to support the roof on the inner sides. The late C15 or early C16 E window of the N aisle, which is similar to that on the S aisle, now opens internally without glass into the N organ chamber.

The tower arch is triple chamfered and the piers have stiff leaf capitals. The tower roof is presumably 1625, and is divided into panels by moulded joists and supported on stone corbels.

PRINCIPAL FIXTURES Octagonal C13 font with a square bowl with chamfered corners with very worn corner carvings. Piscina in N aisle. Choir stalls with shouldered ends and poppyhead finials, The rear row of stalls is C15 with carved, shouldered arm rests and 20 misericords. One has the initials W S on it, perhaps for William Stevens, vicar 1470-81. The misericords may have come from Ramsey or Huntingdon abbey after the dissolution, but it is also possible that they were made for the church. C19 nave benches with square ends with blind tracery panels flanked by small buttresses.

Elaborate timber chancel reredos by Bodley with a crow-stepped gabled frame with gilded cresting and 5 canopied niches, including a central niche with a figure of the crucifixion and flanking niches with the Virgin, St John and angels, Crested timber panelling extends around sanctuary. Sanctuary floor has C19 encaustic tiles. Perpendicular style chancel screen by Bodley of 1901, with a coved cornice and cresting and unpainted rood figures. S aisle chapel with reredos and altar by Martin Travers (d. 1948), who is buried in the churchyard.

Good C19 and C20 stained glass including a window by Morris and Co in the S aisle, several by Kempe in the N and S aisles, and the C20 S aisle E window by Burlinson and Grylls. Some medieval painting is visible on the splays of the C13 windows above the chancel arch. Cast iron Royal Arms of George III. Monuments include an early C16 brass and a late C17 wall tablet to Thomas Bailiff and his wife.

HISTORY The church has pre-Conquest origins, but nothing remains from this period. The building was apparently wholly rebuilt in the C13, by which time it had reached its present large size; the chancel and parts of the W end of the nave and aisles are of this date. A N vestry was added to the chancel in the mid C14, and the arcades, aisles, clerestory and porches were rebuilt in the late C14 and early C15. The chancel arch was also enlarged at this time, and the nave and chancel roofs raised, blocking C13 windows in the nave E gable wall. The W tower was rebuilt in 1625, replacing an earlier tower of unknown, but possibly C13, date. There was further work on the roofs in the C17 (south porch roof dated 1669). The roofs and parapet were repaired in the early C19, and the church was restored by Sir G G Scott in 1853. The vestry was rebuilt, and the organ chamber and choir vestry were added in 1860. There was more restoration in 1885. Furnishings by Bodley were installed in the early C20, with further restoration on the chancel in 1912 and more refurnishing after WWI by Martin Travers. Additional restoration was carried out in the early 1970s by Marshall Sisson, and the church was reordered in the 1990s.

The town of Godmanchester has Roman origins and was a prosperous town throughout the middle ages, although it did not formally become a borough until the early C17. A priest and a church are mentioned at Godmanchester in Domesday book, but no fabric of that date remains. The church belonged to Ramsey Abbey before the Conquest, but was in royal possession in the late C11. In the mid C12 it was given to Merton Abbey (Surrey) and was held by them until the Reformation, at which time the rectory was granted to Westminster Abbey. It is likely that the very substantial size of the church is related to the prosperity of the town throughout the middle ages, and, with the exception of the chancel, not the benefactions from Merton. By the late C14 there was a chantry and at least three religious guilds in Godmanchester, and by the Reformation there was also a grammar school taught by the chantry priest. This abundance of clergy serving the chantry and the guilds may account for the presence of the misericords, an unusual feature for a parish church. The presence of the initials W S for William Stevens, vicar at the time that much of the work was being carried out on the church C15, suggests that they were made for the church and not brought in after the Reformation. The continued use of the gothic style for the tower, rebuilt in the early C17 after the medieval tower became structurally unsound, is interesting and significant as it indicates a desire to build in keeping with the rest of the church, even as domestic architectural fashion was moving towards more Classical styles.

SOURCES Buildings of England: Bedfordshire and the County of Huntingdon and Peterborough (1968), 249-50 RCHME Huntingdonshire (1926) VCH Huntingdonshire II (1932), 286-96 Stuart, Mary. Welcome to St Mary's Godmanchester (1992)

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION The church of St Mary, Godmanchester, is designated at Grade I for the following principal reasons: * A very large and significant church, C13 in origin, substantially rebuilt in the later C15 and early C16. * Very fine surviving medieval roofs and some surviving medieval fittings, including C15 benches with misericords, most unusual for a parish church. * An outstanding and remarkable Gothic survival tower of 1625. * Scott's restoration adds a further level of interest; one of a number of significant church architects to have worked here. * Excellent C19 and C20 fittings, including a screen and reredos by Bodley, and glass by several vey well known manufacturers.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 53527

Legacy System: LBS


Books and journals
Inventory of Huntingdonshire, (1926)

End of official listing