Guilden Morden Church, Cambridgeshire

One of Cambridgeshire’s most spectacular churches, St. Mary’s dominates the surrounding countryside with its magnificent spire. The exterior gives the impression of a Perpendicular building, but it has origins in the early Norman period if not earlier. The land around here was probably owned by the Abbots of Ely and it is possible a Saxon church stood here. The church is first mentioned by name when Picot, first Norman Sheriff of Cambridgeshire took land from the Abbots of Ely. He is described by them as “a hungry lion, a prowling wolf, a crafty fox, a filthy swine, a dog without shame, who stuffed his belly like an insatiable beast as though the whole country were a single corpse” – not what you’d call a glowing recommendation.

Picot’s wife, Hugolina, fell ill and when she recovered Picot built the church of St. Giles in Cambridge as thanks. The canons he installed there were given the land and church at Guilden Morden.

After Picots death the canons were moved to Barnwell Priory and it seems likely that the rebuilding work on Guilden Morden Church began soon after. The core of the church today is 12th Century with many 13th Century additions (the aisles, the arcades and so on). The tower is a later addition, probably 15th Century and spire is almost certainly much later, although no precise date is available.

The exterior seems to have been largely left alone by the Victorians, although the interior was remodelled extensively. Today, we are left with a very dramatic and satisfying church.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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