St Etheldreda Church King Street


Exterior view od st. Etheldreda
St Etheldreda Church - photo E M Trendell ARPS)

Tower - The lower, round part is original. The octagonal belfry is a rebuild of 1723, though much of its outer facing is by Boardman.
Porch - This was added in the fifteenth century, in the Perpendicular style. Above the doorway are the coats of arms of its donors. The niche was for a statue, probably of St Etheldreda, the Abbess of Ely. The fine inner round arched doorway is the Norman original, though much restored.
Nave and chancel: south side - The Norman zigzag 'string course' either side of the inner doorway continues outside and is the clue to the layout of the original church. To the left, on the present corner buttress, it marks the original south-west corner of the nave. To the right, broken by later windows, it stops at a flat Norman buttress, the original south-east corner of the nave. It then drops to a lower level, marking the start of the original, probably apsidal, sanctuary. It finally stops at a modern buttress, which marks the start of the later rectangular chancel which replaced the sanctuary

Following the sixteenth century Reformation, the church declined: in 1597 the chancel was described as being "greatly ruinous". By the late nineteenth century the church was dilapidated and all but redundant. In the 1880s, an energetic new vicar took on its restoration, so it is not surprising that most of what we now see is in fact Victorian.
The architect's aim was, not the 'conservative repair' of what he found, but the creation of an idealised 'Medieval' church. The nave roof was renewed, buttresses were added, flintwork refaced and windows, where not already of that period, were renewed in the 'Decorated' style of the late fourteenth century. Exceptions are the two south chancel windows, which were copied from what was there before: hence the 'Y' tracery '(which is the clue to the thirteenth century date for the chancel) and the 'monkey and man' corbels. The chancel roof dates from the early twentieth century.

view of top of reproduction decorated window
Large 'Decorated' window by Boardman- photo E M Trendell ARPS

Chancel: east end - The large 'Decorated' window by Boardman replaced a plain wooden one.

Nave: north side - The larger window, with the "flat" arch is in the 'Perpendicular' style of the late fifteenth century. Unlike a similar one on the south side, it escaped the restorers' attentions. To its left, the area of rebuilt flintwork marks the site of the former rood loft stair turret.
Further to the right, the Norman zigzag course reappears and then curves to form a door arch, now blocked. Below it, at a lower level, is a fifteenth century doorway, also now blocked.


Nothing, apart from the thick walls, now hints at the original Norman interior. The tall tower arch, replacing a smaller Norman one, was inserted probably in the thirteenth century. A wide chancel arch would also have been built at this time, but the present one is by Boardman in the 19th century. We can get a close-up view of Boardman's fine nave roof from the present upper floor. The wall beams on which it rests are probably fifteenth century.

delapidated monument of husband and wife praying over a coffin
photo E M Trendell ARPS

A wall painting of St Christopher was uncovered in 1884. A drawing of it was made, but the painting itself did not survive. The doorway, now blocked, on the north side of the nave (near the chancel arch) gave access to the rood loft stair turret. The 'rood loft’ would have been above the rood screen which, before the Reformation, separated nave from chancel.

In the chancel is a monument to William Johnson, who died in 1611. It was moved from St Peter Southgate church, demolished in 1887.

The religious revival in the late nineteenth century saw the church furnished in a 'Medieval' style under the influence of the Oxford Movement.  But the revival was not to last. By 1970 the church was derelict.

Since 1975 extensive repairs have been carried out. To accommodate artist's studios, an upper floor, north roof light, toilets and kitchen have been provided

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