Great Gidding.  CHURCH : ST MICHAEL

I first visited Great Gidding on a gloriously sunny Easter Sunday morning in 2007. This was the first stop on what was to be an eight church crawl. I can remember planning things out so that I arrived home at roughly the time that England were due to play Australia in the Cricket World Cup. Well, the church crawl went fine...but  the day went sadly wrong and downhill as soon as the cricket started.

    The church of St Michael was not mentioned in the Domesday Survey of 1086. There was a church here though before the middle of the 13th century, the present south doorway dating from this time. The west tower was added in the first part of the 14th century with the belfry being added about 1370. The nave and chancel arch date from around 1400 with the north and south aisles dating from 60 or so years after that.

    The south porch dates from the 15th century. According to the History of the County of Huntingdonshire, which was produced in 1936, there was a triangular stone sundial, inscribed '1653 Richard Trewe Thomas Daniel C.W.,' at that point lying loose in the vicarage garden. This is said to have come from the gable of this porch.

    In Victorian times, the church of St Michael was in poor condition. In 1843, the Archdeacon said that the church was "Very indifferent, roof especially" whilst the Church Wardens of the day said in 1857 that St Michael was "Much dilapidated". The church was restored in 1870, with further restoration to the tower and chancel arch in 1925

    There is a ring of five bells at St Michael. The first bell is inscribed with the initials TG or TC and was cast by Thomas Norris of the Stamford bellfoundry in 1670. The next three bells are all Victorian with two being cast by Taylor of Loughborough in 1839. The fourth was cast by the same founder, but later on in 1873. The fifth bell was cast by Joseph Eayre of St Neots in 1756. There were six bells here in 1709, but the number had decreased to five by Victorian times. I think that there is every chance that the three  bells cast by Taylor's were re-casts of the bells that hung here previously, but I have found no information as to who might have originally cast these.

     This church was open and welcoming, as indeed all three churches in the Giddings are.  Plenty of stained glass to look at here, with some nice work on show. Walls are lime washed and parts of the interior are carpeted. Very pleasant indeed inside, especially with the sun shining in through the south windows.

   Up in the rafters a small wooden carved head peers down on the congregation, and doubtless has done for many many years, the name John Lamb, church warden along with a date of 1629 is carved in to one of the beams as well.

    Gargoyles and grotesques can be seen on both north and south walls, for the most part these are pretty weathered and not the highest of quality.

    There are some lovely views to be had, with the church being surrounded by some lovely countryside. Coming in on the back road from Luddington In The Brook there is a view of St Michael off to the left, with just the tip of the church at Little Gidding poking above the trees off to the right. A very lovely part of Cambridgeshire, and somewhere where I have spent many happy hours cycling over the years.

    One very ancient grave caught my eye. This grave is not in situ and was leaning against a tree. The stone itself is very crudely carved, and has a date of 1661 at the top of the stone, and the script is very faded. It is very difficult to pick out the wording on this grave, even looking at it magnified on the computer after getting home. The wording does seem to start off by saying "You have come to my graveside..." and states a little later on "My prime was cast away...". Obviously the deceased has met a premature end, which was not unusual in thise days with the mortality rate being very high. I would think that, if the whole text could be read, it would advise the onlooker that he/she too was mortal and would eventually go the same way as the deceased! What is a little unusual to my mind here though is that it was said in text rather than symbols. At this time one would expect to find symbols such as skulls, winged hourglass etc to denote time passing and the mortality of man. These symbols would be superceded in later years by text, by which time a higher percentage of the population would be able to read and write.

   I returned to Great Gidding in the Summer of 2013, taking in an evening prayer service. When we came out of the church the sun had started to set and the sky was glorious. It was lovely to see this gorgeous church silhouetted with the sun going down behind it. It had been a good day, and  we headed back towards Peterborough, taking a quick look at the church at Hamerton in the twilight. to the accompanyment of the calls from the animals at the nearby zoo.

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