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English Church Architecture -



FULBOURN, St. Vigor (TL 521 563)     (August 2003)

(Bedrock:  Upper Cretaceous, Lower Chalk)


Fulbourn was once divided into two parishes and had a second church, dedicated to All Saints, which stood less than ten feet from the southeast corner of this one.  All Saints' church became ruinous and was eventually demolished by order of an Act of Parliament in 1776, but the two benefices were not combined for another century.  That was just seven years after St. Vigor's had been saved from its very dilapidated state by an extensive restoration by Sir Arthur Blomfield (1829-99), who B.F.L. Clarke described as "an architect who designed some noble churches, and a considerable number of St. Uriel's, Clump Ends....  There is",  he wrote, "nothing in particular which is characteristic of the works of Blomfield."   Doubtless this was partly because his practice was too big and too busy for many of his projects to receive much of his personal attention, but Blomfield was also a modest man who appears to have been concerned above all that his churches should meet the wishes of his clients and "be equally well adapted for the due observance of all the rites and ceremonies of our Church"  rather than that they should express any particular artistic principles of his own, and while this may have been a laudable objective in its way, it was not one destined to lead to great architecture.


St. Vigor's (shown left, from the southeast) is quite a large church consisting of a W. tower rising in four stages, an aisled nave, a two-storeyed S. porch built into the angle between the S. aisle and the tower, N. and S. transepts, and a chancel with N. and S. chapels and a northeast vestry.  A drawing of the building in 1869 when restoration was underway, shows how little of the old church was thought capable or worthy of preservation.  Except in the case of the tower, Blomfield replaced almost all the external walls, although the overall plan was altered only by the removal of a N. porch and the addition of the N. transept and S. chapel.  The present church is constructed of pebble rubble with limestone dressings and has attractively tiled roofs to the nave, chancel and porch.  The windows, some of which are old and re-set, take an assortment of Early English, Decorated and Perpendicular forms.  They include a lancet in the S. wall of the chancel, to the east of the chapel, a two-light window with curvilinear tracery immediately east again, a two-light early Perpendicular window with straightened reticulation unit in the head in the E. wall of the vestry, and two similar windows in the N. aisle.  There are also old lancets, still in situ, in the third stage of the tower, and the thirteenth century date of this part of the building is confirmed by the tower arch within, which is acute (i.e. lancet-pointed) and composed of two flat-chamfered orders springing from semicircular corbels.


The nave arcade arches are difficult to place in chronological order.  The five-bay S. arcade (shown right) is composed of double-flat-chamfered arches rising from quatrefoil piers with little hollows between the foils - a design that could probably derive from any time between the late thirteenth century and the fifteenth.  The four eastern arches of the N. arcade (illustrated below left) are also double-flat-chamfered but here the outer order has broaches where it meets the capitals and the supporting piers are octagonal.  The western arch is separated from the others by a narrow wall piece which has the effect of transforming the pier to the east into two responds standing back to back.  (See the thumbnail below right.) The W. respond is semicircular and there are no broaches leading up into the chamfers above. Considered on stylistic grounds alone, perhaps this arch is the oldest, followed by the rest of the N. arcade, and with the S. arcade coming last, but Pevsner (perhaps wisely) attempts to make no distinction in age between the S. arcade and the four western bays of the N. arcade, merely ascribing all this work to the fourteenth century, and the church guide (by D.G. Crane) dates the S. aisle to 1320-30 - which is possible but surely of spurious precision in the absence other evidence - and describes the N. arcade as "later in date"  but with "arches [that] appear to be older",  which would be a bit of a riddle if true.  Certainly flat chamfers are no longer the most common form of arch mouldings in Cambridgeshire after c. 1300 as they seem to be superseded in the main by hollow chamfers, but there is no difficulty about dating octagonal piers to the thirteenth century.  Rather, it is the section of the piers to the S. arcade that seems rather to suggest a somewhat later date.  The arch from the S. aisle to the S. transept matches the S. arcade but the corresponding arch to the north, the chancel arch and the arches from both transepts to the chapels are wholly Victorian.


The S. transept contains a variety of monuments, of which the largest is a tomb chest with attached wall monument commemorating "E. Wood" (d. 1633) and his wife:  it features two very worn recumbent effigies and three kneeling children to the west.  Another effigy, in an open wooden tomb beneath a four-centred arch recessed in the chancel N. wall, is dedicated to John Caraway (d. 1443), rector from 1395-1441.