Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
Church Street, Fenstanton, Cambs, PE28 9JW


Ordnance survey map of Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul
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Statutory Address:
Church Street, Fenstanton, Cambs, PE28 9JW

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Huntingdonshire (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


Parish church dating to the early to mid-C13, partially rebuilt in the mid-C14, C15 and early C16.

Reasons for Designation

The Church of St Peter and St Paul, dating to the early to mid-C13, and partially rebuilt in the mid-C14, C15 and early C16, is listed at Grade I for the following principal reasons:

* Historic interest: the church contains the memorial to the Lord of the Manor of Fenstanton, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (1716-83), the pre-eminent English landscape designer of the mid to late C18 who had a profound influence on the parks and gardens surrounding many country houses;

* Survival of early fabric: extensive survival of medieval fabric with origins in the early C13 and main phases of evolution of the C14 and C15. The mid-C14 sedilia, early C16 pulpit with reframed linen-fold panels, and carved angels under the intermediate principals of the mid-C15 or early C16 aisle roofs are important surviving fixtures; * Architectural interest: it is an architectural expression of the liturgical developments of the medieval church and demonstrates different phases of continuous community use and worship from the C13 to the present.


St Peter and St Paul is the parish church of Fenstanton which has been heavily built up since the mid-C20 but retains many older houses dating from the C16 onwards. The tower was built in the early to mid-C13 and the spire was added in the late C14. The south aisle was rebuilt in the early C14, and the chancel and south porch were rebuilt between 1345-42 by the Rector William de Longthorne. In the C15 the nave was rebuilt with the clerestory, and the east arch of the tower was raised with heavy buttresses added for support. The north aisle was rebuilt in the late C15 or early C16.

Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (1716-83) was buried at the church in February 1783, and there is a contemporary memorial in the chancel with an epigraph by the poet the Revd William Mason commissioned by Brown's eldest son Lance and Brown's friend and patron Lord Coventry. The exact place of burial is unknown but it is likely to be in the churchyard on the north side of the chancel. A headstone, recently installed, marks the approximate spot. Brown had bought the manor of Fenstanton from the Earl of Northampton in 1767 and although this had a chief house – the late C17 manor house on Chequer Street (Grade II* listed) – Brown never resided there as his main home was at Wilderness House, Hampton Court, which came with his post as the King’s Master Gardener.

‘Capability’ Brown was England’s leading and most influential landscape designer of the mid to late C18. Born in Kirkharle, Northumberland, where he was first employed as a gardener, he began to work on improving parks elsewhere, and by 1741 his reputation was such that he was taken on as head gardener for Lord Cobham at Stowe, Buckinghamshire. From 1745 he worked on successive major commissions, and established a very successful practice. Developing on a much grander scale the idea of the naturalistic landscape promoted by William Kent (c.1685-1748), Brown’s signature features – ‘Capability’ referring to his ability to realize the capabilities, that is the inherent possibilities, of landscapes – included gently rolling parkland separated from the house by a ha-ha, clumps of trees, a sinuous lake in the middle distance and shelter belts around the park edge screening the world beyond.


Parish church dating to the early to mid-C13, partially rebuilt in the mid-C14, C15 and early C16.

MATERIALS: Barnack stone, pebble-rubble and clunch with pantile-clad roof covering to nave and north slope of chancel, and clay tiles to south slope.

PLAN: the church has a west tower and nave flanked by north and south aisles, with a south porch, and a large chancel to the east.

EXTERIOR: the tower has five external stages with angle buttresses of four stages, and a cinquefoil belfry light with label and headstops. The broached ashlar spire is pierced by two trefoiled spire lights. The nave has a plain parapet and four two-cinquefoiled lights in four-centred arches in the clerestory. The south aisle has a shallow pitched roof, plain parapet and three large four-cinquefoiled lights in four-centred arches. The south porch has a C16 parapet and a two-centred arch to the doorway with a re-used C13 label enriched with dogtooth decoration. Reset above the arch is a C13 'vesica' window. The chancel is lit on the north and south sides by three three-cinquefoiled ogee lights with net tracery in two-centred arches. The east window has seven-cinquefoiled ogee lights with reticulated and curvilinear tracery.

INTERIOR: the north and south arcades, which were rebuilt in the C15, have moulded columns with four attached semi-octagonal shafts. The north and south aisles embrace the tower. Two mid-C13 arches cut into the original fabric and into two original two-centred arched windows. The C15 east tower arch has a hollow chamfer and wave moulding. The chancel arch was rebuilt in the C15 on the C13 responds. The mid-C14 sedilia is of three stepped bays with a piscina in the fourth bay, all with ogee cinquefoil heads. The nave roof, possibly reconstructed, has four bays with cambered tie beams and king-posts, with carved stone corbels and carved wooden bosses at the main intersections. The north and south aisle roofs, dating to the late C15 or early C16, have four bays with moulded timbers, hollow chamfered rafters and carved and moulded cornices. There are carved bosses at the main intersections, and large carved angels under the intermediate principals. The early C16 pulpit has linen-fold panels reframed in 1860, and the fixed pews were installed in the C19. The east window of 1876 is probably by Henry Hughes of Ward & Hughes, and the windows on the north and south sides of the chancel are by Clayton and Bell.

On the north wall of the chancel is the memorial to Lancelot Brown, Lord of the Manor 1768-1783, aged 67 years, and to his wife and two sons. The monument is of Portland Whitbed stone and takes the form of a flat tomb-chest on steps with a back plate embellished with Gothic detailing and a crenellated top. The inscription reads:

Ye Sons of Elegance, who truly taste The Simple charms that genuine Art supplies, Come from the sylvan Scenes His Genius grac’d, And offer here your tributary Sigh’s. But know that more than Genius slumbers here; Virtues were his which Arts best powers transcend. Come, ye Superior train, who these revere And weep the Christian, Husband, Father, Friend.


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

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Books and journals
Pevsner, Nikolaus, O'Brien, Charles, The Buildings of England: Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire and Peterborough, (2014)


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 21 Feb 2007
Reference: IOE01/16329/03
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr Roger Ashley. Source Historic England Archive
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