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St Andrews Church

Our Ancient wayside church of St. Andrews in Cavenham has been serving the community for over 800 years. Sited in a picturesque setting not far from the the Icknield Way, the church was built on what was probably the site of an earlier Saxon church. The main core of the building dates from about 1200ad, since when it has been altered and improved during different periods of its long history. St Andrews was restored and completely refurnished in 1870. It is a small, humble and rather rustic building, internally it has a 42ft x 20ft nave, 26ft x 17ft chancel and an 8ft x 9ft porch.


The exterior of St. Andrews has much which is worth seeing. At the south-west corner of the nave, directly beneath the gable end, is an ancient piece of carved stone, probably of 12th century date. The carvings are now weathered beyond recognition, but they may have portrayed two animals of which one was possibly a rabbit. Another ancient carved stone supports the south eastern gable end of the nave, this is smaller than the other and may have portrayed two human heads.

There is a square headed Perpendicular (15th century) window to the west of the porch,which is flanked by fragments of its former corbel heads. The two-light window east of the porch is of late 14th century and the single window to the east of this is probably 13th century. The south west window of the chancel has a trefoil head and was once a low side window. Its lower division, now blocked with brick, once contained a shutter which could be opened to allow the ringing of an external bell during the important parts of the Eucharist in mediaeval times. Nearby is a simple 13th century priests doorway, with a hood mould, resting upon simple corbels. East of this is a small and narrow Earl English lancet window, of late 12th or early 13th century date, also a larger single early 14th century window with a trefoil headed arch and pretty tracery. The three-light east window of the chancel, in the perpendicular style, was totally remade in 1870. In the north chancel wall are two Early English lancet windows (one is blocked) and a trefoil headed late 13th century single window.

The north side of the nave has a finely moulded single window, with a hood mould and the remains of corbel heads, together with a two-light and three-light windows in the Perpendicular style. Between them is the simple arch of the disused north doorway.At the top of the wall, under the western gable end, is a frieze of Early English dog tooth moulding in the stonework, dating from the late 12th or early 13th century.

The square western tower is simple and as with the rest of the church, has no buttresses to support it. It is capped with an embattled parapet beneath which, on the north and south sides, fine gargoyles throw the rainwater clear of the walls. The north and south belfry windows are of late 14th century, the western one has a simple 13th century ‘Y’ tracery and the single eastern window is of 13th century. The wooden louvers are from recent years. There is a simple opening on the west face to light the ringing chamber and the 13th century west doorway is blocked at the base, while the top part has been made into a window. Looking at the west face of the tower, one can see that there was once another building attached to it. This was almost certainly a western ‘Galilee’ porch, with an upper chamber above it, making it about the same height as the nave. A similar western porch can be seen in Lakenheath.

The south porch, with its ‘leaning’ south wall, has single cinquefoil headed windows in its lateral walls. The outer entrance arch has semi circular responds, with moulded capitals and the inner arch is very simply moulded throughout. In the jambs of the eastern porch window is some graffiti, which appears to be ancient, but cannot be dated.


church interior.jpg (35769 bytes)The church is entered by a door, although not itself ancient, has a mediaeval door handle with fine ironwork. The interior is bright and, although much of the furniture dates from the 1870s, there are several items of interest and antiquity to be seen. The nave roof has undergone restoration in the 1970s. The Victorians erected a gallery at the west end, but this has since been taken down. The west doorway into the tower is simply moulded and near to it is the very unusual font. Its rather crudely shaped circular bowl is undoubtedly ancient, probably 12th century or even earlier. It rests upon a large octagonal stem of a later date. The font is crowned by a simple 18th century cover.At the eastern end of the south nave are the remains of the former rood loft stairway. Nearby are two wall brackets, for lights or statues, the one nearest the chancel arch has tiny fleurons in its moulding. The pulpit is plain and may have been rebuilt, but its timbers are at least 200 years old. In the windowsill behind it is a very curiously placed piscina, showing that there was an alter nearby in mediaeval times.

St_Walstan.jpg (342598 bytes)On the north wall is part of a late 15th century wall painting, which was revealed in the 1967 whilst restoration work was being carried out. It depicts a crowned figure with a sceptre and scythe, there are angels above him and smaller figures before him. It is thought that the crowned figure is that of the Norfolk saint of Walstan. The chancel arch has semi circular responds, with moulded and embattled capitals. Near its base, on the chancel side, in both the north and south responds can be seen some roughly carved graffiti, of some considerable age, on the north side can be seen a very crude drawing of a man. Beneath the chancel arch are the remains of the mediaeval rood screen. The base is plain and shows signs of painted stars and crescents of a much later date. Once it was richly painted with figures of the saints. Above are single openings with traceried heads and small quatrefoil openings, edged along the top with a band of carved fleurons. Before the Reformation, this screen was surmounted by a rood loft, along which it was possible to walk, above which stood the great Rood (Our Lord, crucified, flanked by Mary and St. John). The centre of the arch screen was renewed in the 17th century. The south west chancel window has a low sill. This was the low side window, where the bell ringer could have sat. The window contains some mediaeval glass, of 14th to 15th century in date. Near the top of the window, and almost obscured by a bar, is an inscription, asking for ‘Priez por Adam la Vicar’. More fragments of mediaeval glass can be seen in the eastern light of the north west window of the nave. The east window contains colourful Victorian glass of c.1872, by William Wailes of Newcastle. The 20th century glass in the south east nave window is by Jones and Willis. 

Beneath the central window of the south side of the chancel is an arched recess, which once contained a tomb, reputed to be that of Adam, the priest who asks for our prayers in the glass inscription. The south east chancel window has a wide western splay and its low sill was used as sedilia (seats for the officiating clergy during parts of the mass). East of this is a fine angle piscina, which is a magnificent piece of early 14th century architecture. It has shafts of purbek marble and a beautiful trefoil head, over which is a crocheted canopy, terminating in a large finial. In this recess the sacred vessels were kept and the priests washed their hands at the Eucharist. In the north wall is a tiny recess, which may have been an aumbry, or cupboard. The alter is a 17th century Communion Table. On the chancel walls are several plaques to members of the Waddington family. One on the south wall commemorates the tragic deaths of John and Mabel Waddington, who both died in January 1872, aged five and seven years respectively. There are three 18th century wall plaques on the north chancel wall, one of these has a Latin inscription. In the nave floor, near the organ, is a brass inscription to John Smunt, a yeoman, who died in 1588. Another brass, to John Thurston, who died in 1698, is now lost. The tower houses three bells, the two larger ones are dated 1676 and the smaller one is from 1831.

This ancient church is by far the oldest structure in Cavenham and has been threatened with closure in recent years due to its dwindling attendance’s. But hopefully the fabric of this wonderful building will remain for many more generations of Cavenham residents to enjoy.

Information on St Walston Mural can be found in the Archeology Section.

Guild of The Holy Trinity 

Founded in 1377 by men of the village their main objectives where to keep a taper burning before the image of The Holy Trinity,to give to the repair of the church and to attend funerals of members of the guild.

©2000 Brian Moles


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