St Mary Magdalene, Madingley, Cambridgeshire

Download as PDF

Feature Sets (2)


Extremely tall, five-bay nave with clerestorey, N aisle and N and S porches. Much lower aisleless chancel and W tower with octagonal stone spire. The original (lower) nave and the chancel date from c.1300 and the aisle and tower from the early 14thc. The clerestorey windows are Perpendicular, so the heightening of the nave presumably dates from this time, but the exterior treatment makes it difficult to be sure. The chancel and tower are constructed of pebble rubble, the nave of stone rubble laid disturbingly like crazy paving. The S side of the nave is mortar rendered. Inside, the piers of the N arcade are of Barnack stone and the arches of local clunch. There was a restoration in 1872-74 by J. Morley and J. Christian, and in 1926 the spire, having become unsafe, was taken down along with the topmost storey of the tower. Rebuilding was completed in the following year. The only 12thc. feature is the font.


In 1086 Picot of Cambridge held 11 hides and 2½ virgates in Madingley, as well as 1½ virgates from the Bishop of Lincoln. The first mention of a church at Madingley was in 1092 when Picot gave it to the Canons of St Giles, Cambridge (Barnwell Priory), as a foundation gift. The present building, dating as it does from no earlier than the 13thc., must be a replacement.




In N nave aisle to W of entrance. A square bowl on a cross-shaped plinth with en-delit nook shafts between the arms. These shafts have bell capitals with plain neckings and double-roll bases. Each face of the font has a different design as follows:

E face: the face is divided into four fields by a saltire. In the L field an irregular four-lobed leaf and two pellets, drilled in the centre; in the top field a trilobed leaf and two drilled pellets; in the R field a trilobed leaf with a drilled pellet at its centre and four more scattered around it; in the bottom field the reeding of the saltire is repeated in two chevrons.

S face: the face is divided into four quarters. Top L and bottom R: a four-lobed leaf with central drilled pellet and four more between the arms. Top R and bottom L: a daisy-like flower cut off at the edges of the field into a rectangular shape, at its centre a drilled pellet.

W face: across the centre of the face a horizontal line of sawtooth, and above it a row of intersecting semicircular arches without supports.

N face: seven rows of half-roll chevron forming 21/2 units.

The angles of the bowl are all decorated with a vertical line of heavy beading, flanked by lines of cable ornament or dogtooth. At the top of the SE angle is a palmette with fluted, rounded leaves. The inside of the bowl is circular with a lead lining.

A stone font was mentioned in 1662 and again by Cole in 1744. Boissier (1827) and Paley (1844) recorded that the font was then modern. In 1919 Col. Harding wrote that in 1870 there was a modern marble vase of no great merit. The present font bowl was discovered broken in half at Madingley Hall by Col. Harding, who bought the property in 1905. He had it restored and set on its present pedestal. Harding himself was convinced that the font came from St Etheldreda's, Histon, whereas Lloyd believed it to be the original stone font from Madingley church. There seems no way of knowing now. For the fate of St Etheldreda's, Histon, see Histon, St Andrew.

h. of bowl 0.36 m
inner diam. of bowl 0.485 m
overall h. of font (to floor) 1.17 m
w. of bowl (E-W) 0.60 m
w. of bowl (N-S) 0.66 m


Lloyd dated the font to c.1135. Pevsner thought that it "looks as if it might be 17thc. work trying to imitate the Norman style", but although some of the foliage is decidedly quirky the present author is inclined to accept it as a 12thc. piece, the presence of dogtooth implying a date towards 1200.


  • A. H. Lloyd, "The Parish Church of Madingley", Cambridge Antiquarian Society Proceedings and Communications, 1931.
  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Cambridgeshire, Harmondsworth 1954 (2nd ed. 1970), 434-35.
  • R. Searle, St Mary Magdalene Madingley: A Short History. 3rd ed. 2001.
  • A. E. Shipley, "Madingley Hall Cambridgeshire, the Residence of Colonel T. W. Harding", Country Life XXXII, 1912, 454-65.
Exterior, view from SE.
Exterior, view from NW.


Site Location
National Grid Reference
TL 395 604 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Cambridgeshire
now: Cambridgeshire
medieval: not confirmed
now: Ely
now: St Mary Magdalene
medieval: St Mary (1313)
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Ron Baxter