St Bene't's Church

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
St Bene't's parish church, with its 11th-century tower on the right
Interior of the nave, looking towards the chancel (right) and north aisle (left)

St Bene't's is a Church of England parish church in central Cambridge, England. Parts of the church, most notably the tower, are Anglo-Saxon, and it is the oldest church in Cambridgeshire[1] and the oldest building in Cambridge.[2]

Bene't is a contraction of Benedict, hence the unusual apostrophe in the name.


The church is on the south side of Bene't Street next to Corpus Christi College.[3] St Bene't's was the College's chapel until 1579. The College remains the church's patron, and there are continuing links between the church and the College chapel.[4]


St Bene't's Anglo-Saxon tower was "most probably" built between AD 1000–1050, although the present bell-openings were added in 1586.[1][5] The tower has characteristically Anglo-Saxon long-and-short quoins.[1] Inside the church the 11th-century arch supporting the tower is the most notable feature.[5] Parts of the north and south walls of the chancel and at least the corners of the nave walls are also Anglo-Saxon.[1] In the 13th century the chancel was altered, hence the deeply splayed Early English Gothic lancet windows on the south side (one of which is now blocked).[1] The nave and aisles were rebuilt about 1300.[1] The sedilia and piscina in the chancel are 14th-century, with Decorated Gothic ogeed arches.[6] The clerestory and roof of the nave are late Perpendicular Gothic[6] and date from 1452.[5]

St Bene't's has one monumental brass: a small kneeling figure of Richard Billingford, who died in 1442[6] and had been Master of Corpus Christi College 1398–1432.

In the third quarter of the 19th century the church was subjected to two Victorian restorations: the first directed by J.R. Brandon in 1853 and the second directed by Arthur Blomfield in 1872.[6] The church is a Grade I listed building.[5]


The tower has a ring of six bells, five of which are 16th or 17th century. Oldest is the second bell, cast by an unknown bellfounder in 1588.[7] A local founder, Richard Holdfield of Cambridge,[8] cast the third bell in 1607 and the fifth bell in 1610.[7] John Draper of Thetford[8] cast the tenor bell in 1618 and Robert Gurney of Bury St Edmunds[8] cast the treble bell in 1663.[7] The youngest is the fourth bell, cast by William Dobson of Downham Market[8] in 1825.[7] Dobson was a prolific bellfounder and 233 of his bells are known to survive.[8] Surviving bells by Holdfield, Draper or Gurney are much rarer.[8]


Michael Ramsey, who later became Archbishop of Canterbury, was vicar in 1938.[citation needed] Brothers of the Society of Saint Francis (among them Reginald Fisher) served at St Bene't's 1945–05.[citation needed] The Revd Angela Tilby, a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4's Thought for the Day, was vicar 2006–11.[citation needed] From September 2012, the vicar has been the Revd Anna Matthews, previously Minor Canon for Liturgy at St Alban's Cathedral.[citation needed]

Fabian Stedman (1640–1713), a pioneer in the development of change ringing, was clerk of the parish in the mid 17th century.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Pevsner 1970, p. 222
  2. ^ Institute of Public Health. "St Bene't's Church". 800 Years of Death and Disease in Cambridge. University of Cambridge. 
  3. ^ St Bene't's Church, Cambridge
  4. ^ a b Roach 1959, pp. 123–132
  5. ^ a b c d "Church of St Bene't". National Heritage List for England. English Heritage. 26 April 1950. Retrieved 30 August 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d Pevsner 1970, p. 223
  7. ^ a b c d Dawson, George (30 October 2011). "Cambridge S Bene't". Dove's Guide for Church Bell Ringers. Central Council of Church Bell Ringers. Retrieved 30 August 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f Dovemaster (31 October 2012). "Bell Founders". Dove's Guide for Church Bell Ringers. Central Council of Church Bell Ringers. Retrieved 30 August 2013. 

Sources and further reading[edit]

Coordinates: 52°12′13″N 0°07′06″E / 52.2037°N 0.1183°E / 52.2037; 0.1183