Godmanchester Church, Huntingdonshire

Godmanchester is one of the oldest settlements in Huntingdonshire, standing directly across the River Great Ouse from Huntingdon itself.

The origins of the church are shrouded in history, but Christian worship was certainly in place here by the late 4th Century. There is mention of a church here being sacked by Vikings in the 8th Century and it seems probably that this early church was entirely destroyed. The next church, the first stone one, was built in the 9th Century and is recorded in the Domesday Book, of this church only the north porch and the font survives.

The current Chancel was built in the early 1200s and reputedly dedicated in the presence of King John in 1215 – this may be apocryphal as John was embroiled deeply in the Barons’ Revolt at that point.

Godmanchester continued to grow and the church was enlarged greatly over the next 100 years or so. It appears that corners were cut and the central tower fell over demolishing much of the nave and so all was rebuilt in the 1400s and enlarged again in the 1500s.

By the time the tower was added, Ramsey Abbey had been dissolved. Because of this the local population was taxed to raise the funds – an unpopular move. Stone was robbed from the now-ruined Hinchingbrooke Nunnery (where Hinchingbrooke House now stands). Even the vicar of St. Mary’s protested the tax for building the tower – the warrant for his arrest is still in existence, although there is no record of him actually being arrested. Still the tower with its great spire was added and is today the most distinctive feature of the church.

The Victorians tinkered as usual including removing the east window which had stood since the 1300s and replacing it with narrow lancet windows, they did however redeem themselves by adding new stained glass to the south aisle. Throughout the 20th Century there were various programmes of repair and consolidation.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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