Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

St Sepulchre's Church (The Round Church), Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

The Round Church in Cambridge is one of only four surviving medieval round churches in England (Holy Sepulchre in Northampton, Temple Church in London and Little Maplestead in Essex are the others, plus if you must the Chapel at Ludlow Castle). These round churches are generally considered to be connected to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

The church in Cambridge, which is perhaps the easiest to see the original shape of, dates to 1114 and 1130 when it was founded by a "Confraternity of the Holy Sepulchre" on land given by Ramsey Abbey. By 1130 it was being run by the Austin Friars of the nearby Hospital of St. John (now St. John's College).

A tower was added in the 15th Century which must have looked very odd against the round nave (although perhaps a little like Holy Sepulchre in Northampton). By the 1840s the church was in a very sorry state; the tower was collapsing, the roofs were falling in and it looked in danger of being removed for a road junction.

Thankfully the Camden Society stepped in and rebuilding work was undertaken. They removed the collapsing tower and added a rounded clerestory, they also added the slightly exaggerated pointy roofs. Although there is some controversy over their work they restored it to something much more like its original state and without their work we would be down to just three surviving round churches - so for that we can only be thankful.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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