This is the church’s legal name as given by the Church Commissioners.
A classification of the current status of the building
This is a unique identification number supplied to each church building by the Church Commissioners.
Name of diocese in which the church building is located at the time of entry.
Name of archdeaconry in which the church building is located at the time of entry
This is the legal name of the parish as given by the Church Commissioners.
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The decision to put a church building on the National Heritage List for England and assign it a listing grade is made by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. The decision is normally based on recommendations made by Historic England, the government’s adviser on the historic environment.
The decision to schedule a feature (building, monument, archaeological remains, etc.) located within the church building’s precinct or churchyard is made by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. The decision is based on recommendations made by Historic England, the government’s adviser on cultural heritage.
National Parks are areas of countryside that include villages and towns, which are protected because of their beautiful countryside, wildlife and cultural heritage. In England, National Parks are designated by Natural England, the government’s advisor on the natural environment.
Conservation areas are places of special architectural or historic interest where it is desirable to preserve and enhance the character and appearance of such areas. Conservation Areas are designated by the Local Council.
The Heritage at Risk programme is run and managed by Historic England, the government’s advisor on cultural heritage. It aims to protect and manage the historic environment, so that the number of ‘at risk’ historic places and sites across England are reduced.
Selecting a single date for the construction of a church building can sometimes be very difficult as most CoE buildings have seen many phases of development over time. The CHR allows you to record a time period rather than a specific date.
The CHR records the time period for the building’s predominant fabric as opposed to the date of the earliest fabric or the church’s foundation date.
It seems to be the wrong photograph. Provided coordinates come up with another church on geograph.org.uk
2011, April 06
If you notice any errors with the below outlines of your connected churchyards, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the corrections needed.
This could include information on new churchyards, edits to the boundaries shown, or different land characteristics.
We are working on adding the consecrated land found within local authority cemeteries, and in time, this data will be shown on the map.
The administrative area within which the church is located.
This field describes the setting of the church building, i.e. the surroundings in which the church building is experienced, and whether or not it makes a positive or negative contribution to the significance of the building.
The parish church of Great St Mary stands in the middle of the pedestrianised historic town centre of Cambridge. To the east is the busy market place, to the west the Senate House and the buildings of King’s College lining the gentle curve of King’s Parade, including King’s College Chapel. St Mary’s churchyard, the Senate House and King’s College lawns and the large Chestnut tree opposite the church provide a green and “soft” setting for central Cambridge.
The church stands slightly off centre to the north in the small rectangular churchyard. The churchyard is laid to grass, which is kept short, with shrub and flower borders. It is defined by rather fine Victorian wrought iron railings with Gothic detailing, listed Grade II in their own right. These railings are very popular for students for securing their bicycles. They form a visual whole with the similar railings to Kings College’s lawns.
The main gate is on the south side leading to the porch. On the north side near the east corner is a row of four red K6 telephone boxes These frame the view west along St Mary’s Street to the Senate from the Market Place, and back the other way down Market Street, a quintessentially English vista. There are also two red post boxes at the south-east corner, complementing them.
There are few funerary monuments on the narrow north side, but many including some impressive tomb chests on the wider strip of churchyard to the south. The earliest markers date to the late 18th century, the most recent to the late 19th. There are large and rather unkempt yews, the remnants of a hedge which serve to give shade, but also limit the views along this side (St Mary’s Passage) in both directions. They also hide a makeshift lean-to building faced in corrugated iron attached to the south-east corner of the church. The south part of the churchyard is a favoured picnic and relaxation spot for local office workers, tourists and students.
King’s College Chapel stands diagonally opposite to the south-west. There are two other former parish churches within a stone’s throw, but these are not intervisible (except from the tower, of course, from which most of historic Cambridge can be seen). These are St Michael’s a short distance to the north in the same parish, and St Edward King and Martyr to the south. Other notable churches nearby include Holy Trinity and St Bene’ts. These Medieval places of worship, now also used for a variety of purposes reflecting the needs of modern society, are integral and defining features of the town centre and streetscenes.
Provide as written description of the ground plan of the church building and well as its dimensions.
The church consists of chancel with north chapel and south vestry; clearstoried and aisled nave; and west tower set within west end of aisles with vaulted narthex underneath; south-west porch.
The nave measures 18m x 10m (65ft x35), the aisles are 8m (26 ft) wide, The chancel is 12m 40ft) long, The tower is 10m x 8m.
Very Large (>1000m2)
This field aims to record the archaeological potential of the wider area around the building and churchyard, as well as the history of site.
The earliest clear evidence of occupation is the remains of a Neolithic farmstead discovered at the site of Fitzwilliam College. There is further archaeological evidence through the Iron Age, with several farmsteads excavated in the area; several continued into the Roman-British period. There has been no evidence from the immediate area of Great St Mary's and the potential for prehistoric archaeological remains is considered to be low. The anticipated deposit depth on the site varies from 1.50m to over 3.00m.
The first major development of the area began with the Roman invasion of Britain. Castle Hill made Cambridge a useful place for a military outpost from which to defend the River Cam. It was also the crossing point for the Via Devana which linked Colchester in Essex with the garrisons at Lincoln and the north. This Roman settlement has been identified as Duroliponte.
The settlement remained a regional centre during the Roman occupation. There have been limited archaeological finds in the Castle hill area. St Peter's Church, halfway up Castle Hill, has Roman tiles in its walls. Late Iron Age to Roman settlement (1st-4th century), including an aisled building was discovered during excavations in 1951-2 for the northern suburbs of Cambridge. The potential for Roman archaeological remains is considered to be moderate.
Saxon and Viking period
After the withdrawal of Roman forces, Anglo-Saxon settlers occupied the area on and around Castle Hill, although the British population is likely to have survived and mingled with them. Archaeological evidence suggests that one settlement was within the ruins of the Roman town around Castle hill, but the other settlement was on the lower ground south and east of the river, in the St Bene’ts church area.
These settlements were united under Mercian rule as a port called Grantabrycge in the 9th century, which Haslam has argued was already a burh. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that after the Danish Great Army wintered in Repton in 873/4, part of it came to Grantebrycge. A few years later Cambridge came under the Danelaw. The Danes settled mainly to the south of modern Quayside, and developed the settlement into a major trading settlement and local administrative centre.
Following the Saxon reconquest of East Anglia by 921, Cambridge swore allegiance to Edward the Elder, who confirmed its emerging status as a county town. The market moved to its present location from the Roman settlement during this period. Evidence of the economic standing of Cambridge is afforded by the existence of a mint there from 975 onwards. Coins of five pre-Conquest kings are known.
The first stone churches, all apparently early 11th-century, appear to have been St Bene’ts, St Mary the Less, and St Giles (demolished 1875).
Norman Conquest and aftermath
After the conquest of England in 1066- 1068, William I, returning from York and the Harrowing of the North campaign, visited Cambridge and ordered a castle to be erected there. His Sheriff Robert Picot built this first Motte and Bailey Castle which stands on the highest point in Cambridge. The strategic importance of this location overlooking the River Cam was recognised, and the Domesday Book records that 27 houses were demolished to make way for it, which gives some idea of the density of housing in Saxon Cambridge. Several churches were built or rebuilt, including St Mary’s, first mentioned in 1205.
The castle was remodelled in stone by Edward I in the late 13th century. A new Guildhall was built in 1386, following a major fire in the town, and lasted until being replaced in 1782. The market area was very different from its modern appearance. There were buildings attached to the east of Great St Mary's, then Pump Lane (with public water pumps), then houses approximately in the middle of the modern market.
The space for the actual market was essentially Peas Hill, the space in front of the Guildhall and the right-hand side of the modern market. The potential for Early Medieval archaeological remains on the site of the church is therefore high.
The Building of the Church
The church of St Mary the Virgin is first mentioned in 1205 (when it was known as St Mary-by-the-market), when King John presented Thomas de Chimeleye to the rectory, and Gervase, his chaplain, to the vicarage for life. This suggests that the church was built in the late 12th century at the latest. During its early years the church was the property of the crown, but in 1342 it was passed to King’s Hall. The advowson then passed to Trinity College, where it has remained since.
The Guild of St Mary based in the church is first mentioned 1282–5; its minutes are extant for 1298–1319, and also its Bede Roll for 1349. It is once referred to as 'the Guild of Merchants of the blessed Virgin of Cambridge', and it augmented its funds by small-scale trading, but it cannot be regarded as a Guild Merchant of the chartered type. By 1337 it had five chaplains. In 1352 by royal grant it was allowed to coalesce with the Guild of Corpus Christi to found a college.
The church was damaged by fire in 1290 and then rebuilt, in which the Guild probably took an active part. The remnant of this church would appear to be the chancel, which was lengthened in 1352 when the church was again rebuilt. The orders for the consecration of the new church were sent out on 17 May 1346, but were not enacted until 15 March 1351. Prior to 1352 it was known as the Church of St Mary the Virgin, but since that year has become known as Great St Mary's.
The connection with the developing University was firm by 1381, as it led to St Mary’s being ransacked by rioters in that year. On Sunday morning, mass at St Mary’s was disturbed by a crowd led by John Giboun, who broke open the University chest kept in the church and burnt and destroyed the muniments in it. Jewels and vessels were also seized.
Convocation sat at the church during the Parliament of 1388. Conferences between town and gown took place there, and the Black Assembly was held there annually.
St Mary’s was almost completely rebuilt between 1478 and 1519, University meetings being held during this time in the churches of the Austin or Grey Friars. Subscription lists are extant and include the names of Richard III and Henry VII (who donated wood for the roof in 1505), but most of the funds came from the University.
The nave roof was being framed in 1506, the altar in the Lady Chapel was consecrated in 1518, the nave seats were made in 1519. Craftsmen associated with the work include the masons William Burdon, John Bell and William Rotherham, and the carpenter William Buxton. The contract survives for the building of the magnificent rood loft in 1522–3, the scale of which was made possible by the great height of the new nave. The loft was demolished in 1562 by Bishop Parker's orders.
The tower was begun in 1491 and completed as far as the belfry in 1596, when the parish books record that 'this year all our bells are rung out and was never before'. The corner turrets were completed in 1608, when John Warren, churchwarden and acting clerk of the works, was killed in an accident. An inscription on the tower wall, copied from his former monument, records: ”Here John Warren sleeps among the dead, Who with the church his own life finished”.
By the Elizabethan period the castle was rapidly falling into decay with stone being robbed for use in other buildings in Cambridge. Only the south-western gatehouse survived intact and was used as the County Gaol during this period. In 1643 Cromwell remodelled the castle defences, which were never tested and demolished in 1647. The barracks and gatehouse were again used as a prison until the 19th century.
The Post-Reformation Church
The report sent to Laud as to the use made of the church in 1636 gives a vivid picture of its interior at that date, serving as a ‘lumberhouse’ between commencements and ‘blinded up’ by shops. In 1640, chiefly owing to the efforts of Nicholas (later Bishop) Cosin, then Master of Peterhouse, a new chancel screen was erected, seen and described by Cole before it was destroyed in 1754 to make room for the gallery over the chancel known as the Throne, or Golgotha. The south porch was demolished in 1783.
The building of galleries to accommodate the listeners to University sermons had begun in 1610 with a gallery for the doctors, which was pulled down seven years later by order of James I. In 1736 the galleries over the aisles were built, under James Gibb’s directions, to accommodate undergraduates and bachelors, a legacy for their erection and maintenance having been left by William Worts in 1709. These galleries survive today. James Essex directed the building of the Throne in 1754. The west gallery was installed in 1837 to designs by Edward Blore, who also intended to add a spire to the tower, but this was never carried out.
In 1849 a fire destroyed much of the market so the Corporation used the opportunity to clear the entire space. It obtained an Act of Parliament for purchasing the land and in 1855/6 moved the conduit head and erected a new central drinking fountain, creating the present appearance. The fountain was pulled down in 1953.
The Elizabethan west porch of 1576 was replaced by a Gothic-style door in 1850-1 by Gilbert Scott, and the old vestry was demolished and the chancel re-clad in 1857 by Anthony Salvin. Both Throne and west gallery were taken down in 1863, and the box pews were also removed and replaced with benches, but the aisle galleries remain, supplying over 400 of the 1,700 seats which the church affords today.
The south porch was rebuilt along its original lines in 1888, and the tower was restored in 1892.
The Late 20th century
Despite having a university, Cambridge was not granted its city charter until 1951. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s the size of the city was greatly increased by several large council estates planned to hold London overspill. The biggest impact has been on the area north of the river, there are also smaller estates to the south of the city.
In 1962 Cambridge's first shopping arcade, Bradwell's Court, opened on Drummer Street, though this was demolished in 2002. Other shopping arcades followed at Lion Yard, which housed a relocated Central Library for the city, and the Grafton Centre. Both of these projects met strong opposition at the time.
In the church, there was also some refurnishing and restoration in the 20th-century, including reordering in the chancel in 1958. A shop has been introduced into the west end of the south aisle, and toilets and offices into the west end above internal partitions. The south chapel has been converted into two levels with floor and glazed screen between the gallery and room.
This field aims to record a written description of the exterior of the church building and the churchyard.
This field is an index of the building and its major components
This field is an index of the building’s material composition
This field aims to record a written description of the interior of the church building.
Entering through the west tower doorway, which has good oak doors (mid 19th-century), one progresses into a long transverse vaulted space which spans the tower and the west aisle bays. This has now been subdivided with toilets in the south end with offices over, and more offices in the north. There are several benefaction boards here. The floor is of stone flags.
The stair to the ringing chamber is entered through a pointed doorway. The chamber is lined with 16th-century linenfold panelling and later ringing boards, a very fine room indeed, used as a study. The belfry stage is entered through another pointed arch. The ring of twelve bells is housed in an iron frame. Above this the staircase is of wood, the walls of brick. One exits onto the lead-clad roof through a door, enjoying excellent views of the roofs and surrounding town.
Above the tower arch is a projecting stone gallery housing the very large pipe organ, the gallery painted elephant grey.
The aisled nave
The tower arch rises through two stories to the head of the clerestory windows; it is partially closed by the organ gallery. The lower part, with a Perpendicular-style doorway in artificial stone, is probably part of the former west gallery of 1819. Looking east from under the tower arch, there is a rather makeshift shop stall in the west end of the north aisle, with a plain wooden partition behind. Adjacent to this and in front of the pointed entrance to the tower stair stands the font, which appears rather forlorn in this position.
The piers and arches of the arcades and tower arch are left bare stone. The tall nave aisle arcades, tower and chancel arch are pointed but only just so (segmental arches as in the windows). The moulded arches are carried on clustered piers without capitals. The spandrels are taken up by excellent interlocking floriate patterns, and a band of such ornament continues above the tower arch under a moulded cornice.
The 18th-century galleries with fielded panelled fronts cut across the line of the arcades and the aisle windows, with steeply raked seating of high quality, and raked undersides over the aisles. The stairs at the west end are thought to have been designed by James Gibbs. The gallery does impinge on the originally intended flooding of the interior with light, diminishing the Perpendicular ideal of the “Glasshouse”.
Apart from the arcades the wall surfaces are whitewashed. The monuments mounted on the walls give texture.
The aisles extend across the western bay of the chancel to form chapels, and there is a polygonal rood stair turret on the south side at the junction of aisle and chapel. The north and south aisle doorways are early 16th-century, those in the chapels are late 16th, as is that to the rood stair. The north tower screen wall door is 17th-century, that on the south 15th-century. Late 15th-century piscina in the south aisle.
Very fine late medieval roofs in the nave, aisles and chapels with carved bosses and openwork tracery in the spandrels of the braces; the bosses in the nave are very fine. The internal string courses in the aisles and chapels are also decorated with paterae, flowers, masks and heraldic devices. The fine nave roof is of the early 16th century, of 10 bays, with arch braces supported alternately on slender shafts that descend to the piers and corbels between the clerestory windows. The roof was preserved by James Essex, who left it suspended under a new roof in 1766. There are separate boarded tunnel-vault roofs to the nave and aisles.
There are fine 18th-century carved oak screens at the east ends of the aisles (which used to continue across and close off the chancel completely until the 1860s), with doorways leading into the chapels there. This is said to be the remnants of the 18th-century 3-decker pulpit.
The wooden furnishings and the ranks of bench pews which fill the nave and aisles are a defining feature of the visual appearance of the interior, though there are now gaps at the west end. The late 19th-century nave benches (of 1863?) have poppyheads and shaped ends, copying the 16th-century benches which still survive in the north aisle. The floors are of stone flags with heating grilles down the centre of the nave alley between the benches.
The Chancel and Chapels
The arches to the chancel chapels are late 15th-century. The eastern bay of the chancel is filled with the ornate choir stalls, set facing each other across the entrance (collegiate-wise). They cut across a tall pointed arch to the north chapel. Just visible in the south wall is a blocked late 13th-century arch, the most obvious architectural feature surviving from earlier phases. There is also a large 14th-century arched tomb niche in the north wall and piscine with sedilia opposite, both much restored. The chancel east window is 14th-century internally, as are two ogee-headed statute niches flanking the window. There is also evidence for former 14th-century north and south doors and windows.
The focus is provided by a gilded oval reredos of the Risen Christ flanked by symbols of the Evangelist, behind the altar table.
This field is an index of the building’s internal, architectural components. This includes its internal spaces and those areas’ fixtures and fittings (building components which are securely fixed to the church or cathedral).
This field is an index of the building’s movable, non-fixed furnishings and artworks.
This field aims to record a description of the ecology of the churchyard and surrounding setting.
The everyday wildlife of burial grounds means much to those who visit and cherish them but many burial grounds are so rich in wildlife that they should be designated and specially protected. Few have the legal protection of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) or, in the case of local authority owned cemeteries, Local Nature Reserve. This makes it even more important that they are cared for and protected by the people looking after them.
Many have a non-statutory designation as a recognition of their importance. These non-statutory designations have a variety of names in different regions including Local Wildlife Site, County Wildlife Site, Site of Importance for Nature Conservation or Site of Nature Conservation Importance (Local Wildlife Site is the most common name). Their selection is based on records of the most important, distinctive and threatened species and habitats within a national, regional and local context. This makes them some of our most valuable wildlife areas.
For example, many burial grounds which are designated as Local Wildlife Sites contain species-rich meadow, rich in wildflowers, native grasses and grassland fungi managed by only occasional mowing plus raking. When this is the case, many animals may be present too, insects, birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals. This type of grassland was once widespread and has been almost entirely lost from the UK with approximately 3% remaining, so burial grounds with species-rich meadow managed in this way are extremely important for wildlife.
These designations should be considered when planning management or change.
If you think that this or any other burial ground should be designated please contact Caring for God’s Acre (email@example.com) to discuss. Many eligible sites have not yet received a designation and can be surveyed and then submitted for consideration.
There are no SSSIs within the curtilage of this Major Parish Church.
There are no Local nature reserves within the curtilage of this Major Parish Church.
There are no Local Wildlife sites within the curtilage of this Major Parish Church.
This field aims to record any evidence of the presence of bats in the church building or churchyard.
This field records basic information about the presence of a churchyard and its use as a burial ground.
There are no Scheduled Monuments within the curtilage of this Major Parish Church.
Churchyards are home to fantastic trees, in particular ancient and veteran trees which can be the oldest indication of a sacred space and be features of extraordinary individuality. The UK holds a globally important population of ancient and veteran yew trees of which three-quarters are found in the churchyards of England and Wales.
There are more than 1,000 ancient and veteran yews aged at least 500 years in these churchyards.
To put this in context, the only other part of western Europe with a known significant yew population is Normandy in northern France, where more than 100 ancient or veteran churchyard yews have been recorded.
Burial grounds may contain veteran and ancient trees of other species such as sweet chestnut or small-leaved lime which, whilst maybe not so old as the yews, are still important for wildlife and may be home to many other species.
Specialist advice is needed when managing these wonderful trees. For more information or to seek advice please contact Caring for God’s Acre, The Ancient Yew Group and The Woodland Trust.
If you know of an ancient or veteran tree in a burial ground that is not listed here please contact Caring for God’s Acre.
There are currently no Ancient, Veteran or Notable trees connected to this Major Parish Church
This field is an index of the churchyard’s components.
Significance is the whole set of reasons why people value a church, whether as a place for worship and mission, as an historic building that is part of the national heritage, as a focus for the local community, as a familiar landmark or for any other reasons.
This information forms part of the Shrinking the Footprint project.
All of the species listed below have been recorded in close proximity to the
Major Parish Church
. A few species which are particularly threatened and affected by disturbance may not be listed here because their exact location cannot be shared.
NOTE: Be aware that this dataset is growing, and the species totals may change once the National Biodiversity Network has added further records. Species may be present but not recorded and still await discovery.
Caring for God’s Acre is a conservation charity working to support groups and individuals to investigate, care for, and enjoy the wildlife and heritage treasures found within churchyards and other burial grounds. Look on their website for information and advice and please contact their staff directly. They can help you manage this churchyard for people and wildlife.
To learn more about all of the species recorded against this church, go to the Burial Ground Portal within the NBN Atlas. You can check the spread of records through the years, discovering what has been recorded and when, plus what discoveries might remain to be uncovered.
If any of the following species have been seen close to the Major Parish Church, it is important to seek advice from an expert. You will need to know if they are present now, and to follow expert recommendations when planning works. All of these species have specific legal protection as a recognition of their rarity. All of them are rare or becoming increasingly endangered, so it is important to ensure that management and other works do not adversely affect them. In addition, there may be things you can do to help these special species. N.B. Swift and House Martin do not have specific legal protection but are included, as roof repair works often impact breeding swifts and house martins which is against the law.
This is not a complete list of protected species, there are many more, but these are ones that are more likely to be found. All wild birds, their nests and eggs are also protected by law, as are all bats and veteran trees. In a few cases, species are considered particularly prone to disturbance or destruction by people, so the exact location of where they were recorded is not publicly available but can be requested. These ‘blurred’ records are included here, and the accuracy is to 1km. This means that the species has been recorded in close proximity to the
Major Parish Church, or a maximum of 1km away from it. As these ‘blurred’ species are quite mobile, there is a strong likelihood that they can occur close to the
Major Parish Church. To learn about these special species, use the link provided for each species in the table below
One important species which is not included here is the Peregrine Falcon. This is protected and advice should be sought if peregrines are nesting on a church or cathedral. Peregrine records are ‘blurred’ to 10km, hence the decision not to include records here. Remember too that species not seriously threatened nationally may still be at risk in your region and be sensitive to works. You should check with local experts about this. You may also need to seek advice about invasive species, such as Japanese knotweed and aquatics colonising streams or pools, which can spread in churchyards.
N.B. If a species is not recorded this does not indicate absence. It is always good practice to survey.
Caring for God’s Acre can help and support you in looking after the biodiversity present in this special place. If you know that any of these species occur close to the
Major Parish Church and are not recorded here, please contact Caring for God’s Acre with details (firstname.lastname@example.org).
To find out more about these and other species recorded against this
Major Parish Church, go to the Burial Ground Portal within the NBN Atlas.
The church was the centre of many people’s lives and remains a guide to their cares and concerns. Glimpses into those lives have often come down to us in the stories we heard as children or old photographs discovered in tattered shoe boxes. Perhaps your ancestors even made it into local legend following some fantastic event? You can choose to share those memories with others and record them for future generations on this Forum.
Tell us the story of this building through the lives of those who experienced it. Tell us why this church is important to you and your community.
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