Little St Mary's, Cambridge

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Little St Mary's, Cambridge
photograph of church, viewed from the outside
The church, viewed from the North West
map of Cambridge
map of Cambridge
Little St Mary's, Cambridge
Location in central Cambridge
52°12′04″N 0°07′05″E / 52.20114°N 0.11812°E / 52.20114; 0.11812Coordinates: 52°12′04″N 0°07′05″E / 52.20114°N 0.11812°E / 52.20114; 0.11812
Location Cambridge
Country England
Denomination Anglican
Dedication Blessed Virgin Mary
Dedicated 1352

Little St Mary's or St Mary the Less is an Anglican parish church in Cambridge, England, on Trumpington Street between Emmanuel United Reformed Church and Peterhouse. The church Is in the Diocese of Ely and follows the 'Anglo-Catholic' or 'high-church' tradition of the Church of England. In addition to its main Sunday worship, the church has a strong tradition of daily morning and evening prayer, regular weekday Communion and the keeping of church festivals. The church has a particular ministry helping men and women to explore possible vocations to the priesthood. Little St Mary's has active overseas mission links, provides support to local mental health projects, and participates in Hope Cambridge's Churches Homeless Project. At present, the vicar is The Rev. Dr Robert Mackley.[1]


There has been a place of worship on the current site since around the twelfth century. The earliest known records of the church state that the first church here, called St Peter-without-Trumpington Gate, was controlled by three successive generations of the same family until 1207. After that date it was given to the Hospital of St John the Evangelist and served by chaplains from that foundation.

"[1643] At Little Mary’s...we brake downe 60 superstitious pictures, some popes, and crucifixes, and God the Father sitting in a chayer, and holding a globe in his hand."

The Journal of William Dowsing 

In the 1280s, the Bishop of Ely lodged some scholars in the Hospital but to his dismay found soon that the sick and the students could not live in harmony together. The students were moved in 1284 to the site of what is now Peterhouse; this was the origin of the first Cambridge college. By the 1340s the church was in such a bad state that the fellows of Peterhouse decided to rebuild it. In 1352, the new building had the dual purpose of College Chapel (to Peterhouse) and Parish Church. At this time, it was rededicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1632 Peterhouse built a separate Chapel and St Mary the Less reverted to being a Parish Church. Richard Crashaw, the metaphysical poet, was a priest there from 1638 to 1643, at the same time that he was a Fellow of Peterhouse. A few years after his departure, many of the Church's ornaments and statues were damaged or destroyed by the Puritan extremist William Dowsing. Abraham Baker and his three wives, Ann [surname unknown], Elizabeth Cropley[2] and Margaret Tillet,[3] and nine of his thirteen children are buried at the church.[4] He was Churchwarden in 1677 when he purchased the parish register book,[5] which is now held in the Cambridge Record Office. His eldest son Abraham, who was educated at Peterhouse,[6] married Margaret Pycroft,[7] daughter of Rev. Samuel Pycroft, and replaced him as rector of Ditchingham, Norfolk in 1718.[8] The damage to the sedilia and the entrance to the Lady Chapel has never been repaired. In 1741 the church was refitted with wooden panelling, box pews, choir gallery, and the present pulpit. From 1856–7 Sir George Gilbert Scott restored the church and removed the 18th-century panelling. Further restoration work was carried out in 1876 and 1891, but by 1880 the church was much as it is now. The south, or Lady Chapel, was added in 1931 and designed by Thomas Lyon, the architect of Sidney Sussex College Chapel. The Parish Centre at the west end of the church was built in 1892 and enlarged in 1990 and again in 2011.

Stained glass[edit]


  1. ^ Little St Mary's, Cambridge. "Welcome to Little St Mary's Church, Cambridge" (parish website). Self-published. Retrieved August 21, 2016. 
  2. ^ Parish Registers of St. Mary the Less, Cambridge
  3. ^ Parish Registers of St. Benedict, Cambridge
  4. ^ Parish Registers of St. Mary the Less, Cambridge
  5. ^ A2A - Records of the Parish of St. Mary the Less, Cambridge Ref: P31/1/2
  6. ^ Alumni Cantab.
  7. ^ Parish Registers of St. Andrew, Norwich, Norfolk
  8. ^ St. Mary, Ditchingham, Norfolk - list of Rectors

External links[edit]