St John the Baptist, Pampisford, Cambridgeshire

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Feature Sets (2)


Nave with N aisle, chancel, W tower with Hertfordshire spike. Construction is of flint and pebble with ashlar facings. The 12thc. S nave doorway, protected by a porch, has a figural tympanum. Access has not yet been possible, but Pevsner reports a Norman font.


In 1086 the largest landholder was the Abbot of Ely with a manor of 2 hides and 3½ virgates. In addtition, 2 knights held 1 hide and 22 acres of Count Alan, Pirot held 5 acres from Eudo fitzHubert, Hardwin de Scales held 1 virgate and 10 acres, Ralph held 3 virgates from Picot of Cambridge, and a priest held half a virgate from Countess Judith.


Exterior Features


S nave doorway

Round headed, one order with tympanum but no lintel. The tympanum, a single block, is carved in relief with an arcade of ten bays curving around it, but is otherwise plain. The piers have scribed lines for coursing and low block capitals, and the arches are semicircular. Each bay contains a figure or object, from L to R:

1. A disembodied human head floating under the arch.

2. A standing, clothed male figure facing R with his hand on the R capital of the bay.

3. A disembodied or severed head on the ground between the piers.

4. A simple throne facing R.

5. A frontal standing human figure in a long robe with full sleeves.

6. A standing, male figure with bald head and beard, clothed in a long robe and facing R. He touches the R capital with his L hand while holding an object (rod, flail, sickle?) in his R.

7. A standing, clothed female(?) figure facing L and touching the L capital with an extended hand.

8. A standing clothed figure facing front with each hand resting on the capital alongside.

9. A standing, clothed bearded(?) figure facing L and touching the L capital.

10. A tall, font-like object, narrow in the centre and flaring out at top and bottom.

The first order jambs have replaced nook shafts on modern bases. The L capital has a single volute at the angle and cable necking, the R capital a spidery palmette on the angle and plain necking. Capitals support plain chamfered imposts and a plain arch.

h. of opening 2.31 m
h. of tympanum 0.55 m
w. of opening 1.08 m
w. of tympanum 1.08 m


Browne's identification of the tympanum figures as episodes from the birth and death of St John the Baptist is worth summarising here. He read the scenes from R to L as follows:

1. The altar at which Zacharias burned incense (Luke 1, 9)

2. Zacharias standing before

3. the Angel

4. Herod's daughter dancing before

5. Herod

6. John the Baptist

7. the headsman's block

8. the severed head

9. figure carrying a charger

10. the head rising heavenwards.

In the absence of anything better, or indeed anything else at all, Browne's interpretation must be accepted.


  • M. D. Anderson, History and Imagery in British Churches. London 1971, 85.
  • G. R. Bossier, Notes on the Cambridgeshire Churches. 1827, 46.
  • G. F. Browne, "Notes on the Tympanum of the South Door of Pampisford Church, and on the Rectory of Pampisford", Cambridge Antiquarian Society Proceedings and Communications, VI, 1887.
  • The Victoria History of the County of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely, VI, 1978, 112.
  • C. H. Evelyn-White, County Churches: Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely. London 1911, 145-46.
  • The Ecclesiastical and Architectural Topography of England: Cambridgeshire (Architectural Institute of Great Britain and Ireland), Oxford 1852, 160.
  • F. S. L. Johnson, A Catalogue of Romanesque Sculpture in Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely. M.Phil (London, Courtauld Institute), 1984, 282-84.
  • C. Keyser, A list of Norman Tympana and Lintels. London 1904, 33.
  • D. and S. Lysons, Magna Britannia. Cambridgeshire II, pt I, London 1808, 51, 245.
  • N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Cambridgeshire, Harmondsworth 1954 (2nd ed. 1970), 447-48.
Exterior general view from E


Site Location
National Grid Reference
TL 498 483 
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales): Cambridgeshire
now: Cambridgeshire
medieval: not confirmed
now: Ely
medieval: not confirmed
now: St John the Baptist
Type of building/monument
Parish church  
Report authors
Ron Baxter