Buckden Church, Huntingdonshire

Buckden Church is one of Huntingdonshire’s most magnificent – dating back to at least the Saxon period. Of the Saxon church nothing survives, and there are only a few remains of the late Norman church which is mentioned in the Domesday Book. By that time the land was in the direct jurisdiction of the Bishops of Lincoln and they were responsible for the rebuilding of the church as well as the construction of the semi-fortified Buckden Tower which stands next door.

The church which stands today was built between 1435 and 1440 by Bishops Gray and Alnwick, presumably as the little Norman church was not considered grand enough to stand next to their Palace (the Tower). If they were going to receive guests they would need to have a church of stature next to their residence.

The porch was the last addition, dating to around 1482, and has some great animal carvings around the parapet, including ten squirrels climbing the arch. The bottom of the tower is 13th Cnetury, but the rest, including the spire is from the 15th Century rebuild, making it one of the few spires not to have been rebuilt by the Victorians in this area. The bells themselves date to 1510 and the frame they hang on to 1637. The roof of the nave was restored in 1649 presumably after damage during the Civil War and the Commonwealth.

A tomb inside, dating to around 1551, is said to contain the remains of the Dukes of Suffolk. Henry Brandon, the 15th year-old Duke arrived at Buckden Tower in July of 1551 with his younger brother Charles. The following day Henry succumbed to the “English Sweat” a particularly virulent virus which was sweeping across the country. Twenty minutes later his brother Charles died and thus went down in history as the shortest-lived peer on record. Incidentally, Duke of Suffolk must be the unluckiest peerage title in England – the first line died out after 3 Dukes, the second line (this one) also only had 3 Dukes, the final time the Dukedom was founded and Charles Brandon was given the title he threw it away by putting his daughter Jane Grey on the English throne and paid for it with his head. No one has bothered to try to revive the Dukedom since!

The last major work at Buckden Church was the stripping on the interior plasterwork and the installation of new pews in 1909.

Essentially what stands today would be recognised by the Bishops who founded it nearly 700 years ago – one of the finest churches in the East of England.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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