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English Church Architecture -

Cambridgeshire.

 

BABRAHAM, St. Peter (TL 509 505)     (July 2005)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Lower Chalk)

 

Situated behind the village next to the former hall, this church (shown left, from the southeast) consists of a short unbuttressed tower, an aisled nave with N. and S. porches, and a chancel, and is constructed of the usual mix of flints and other fieldstones, now with pantiles for the chancel roof.  The style today is largely Perpendicular, albeit that the aisle windows have mostly been renewed:  the straightened reticulation units in the heads of the tower bell-openings suggest a date around the third quarter of the fourteenth century for this work (see Appendix 2), while the two-light, square-headed, uncusped and untraceried windows in the N. porch and clerestory, must surely be Tudor.  However, the chancel retains a lowside, transomed S. window formed of a quatrefoil above two trefoil-cusped lancet lights, which could go back to c. 1300, and the blocked lancet in the N. wall could be earlier still, together with the rather incompetent window adjacent, formed of two lancets set in a wider arch with a void in the head.

 

Inside the church, the four-bay aisle arcades are again Perpendicular and supported on compound piers with semi-octagonal shafts towards the openings and wave mouldings to north and south.  The wide chancel arch has semi-octagonal responds and one flat and one hollow chamfer above, which would fit the date proposed for the lowside S. window. (See the N. arcade and chancel arch, illustrated right.) The tower arch, now obscured by the organ gallery and apparently overlooked by Pevsner, is actually Norman, being round and of exceptional thickness.  However, the building seems to have no other twelfth century features (unless one includes the small renewed round-headed window in the tower W. wall), and to judge by the wall thicknesses, it seems likely that it is only a portion of the tower E. wall (or, which is the same thing, the nave W. wall) which survives from this period, when perhaps the church was tower-less and this arch formed an outer doorway.

 

Woodwork at St. Peter’s includes the pulpit, which appears to have been remodelled but is Perpendicular in parts. The altar rail is Carolean and inscribed 1665 on the gate.

 

The church’s principal monument (shown left) stands against the E. wall of the S. aisle, the floor of which has been raised to create a low vault beneath.  The monument commemorates the brothers Sir Richard and Sir Thomas Bennett (d. 1658  and 1667 respectively), who married two sisters and endowed a charity in the village.  It features two standing effigies, one facing west and the other north, each “spectrally thin and joyless in their surging... draperies...  Their gesticulating also is... un-English, and in weird contrast to their gaunt faces.”  (Pevsner).