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St Michael, Toseland, Huntingdonshire

(52°14′51″N, 0°11′6″W)
TL 240 626
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Huntingdonshire
now Cambridgeshire
  • Ron Baxter

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St Michael's has a rectangular nave with a W bellcote and a rectangular chancel with a N vestry. It is constructed of brown cobbles except for the N nave wall, which is brick. The church fell into disrepair and by the middle of the 19thc. it had lost its chancel and consisted simply of a nave with a hipped roof surmounted by a central bell-turret. The N wall of the nave appears to have been replaced in the 18thc. In 1873, the church was thoroughly rebuilt by Arthur Blomfield of London at a cost of £933, raised by subscription. The N wall and the part of the S wall, including the 12thc. doorway and window, were retained, and the remainder rebuilt on the old foundations using cobbles and Bath stone facings. The chancel, of course, was entirely rebuilt. The vestry was added in 1897. Despite having the general appearance of a neo-Norman building, much of the fabric of the nave is genuinely Romanesque. The chancel arch includes important early-12thc. capitals, while the later S doorway is very elaborate. A 12thc. S nave window survives, and the head of a similar window is reset in the N nave wall.


Toseland gave its name to the Hundred in which it stands, and was of importance in the Anglo-Saxon period. By the 11thc. it had lost its importance and was not mentioned in Domesday. By then it was no more than a berewick, or barley farm, belonging to the manor of Great Paxton, and part of the holdings of Countess Judith, a niece of William the Conqueror and widow of Earl Waltheof of Huntingdon and Northumbria. She was an important landowner with holdings in ten counties in the Midlands and East Anglia.


Exterior Features



Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

Interior Decoration

String courses

Corinthianesque capitals are not common in this part of the country, and there is presumably a connection between the chancel arch capitals and Ely Cathedral, which must at any rate be the source of the volute type. The inturned volutes of the N capital are asserted by Pevsner to foreshadow waterleaf, but that belongs to quite a different world. There is an interesting formal connection with nearby Southoe in the lozenge decoration of the imposts and the use of chip-carving (though not the same designs).

Victoria County History: Huntingdonshire. II (1932).
N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Bedfordshire and the County of Huntingdon and Peterborough, Harmondsworth 1968, 356-57.
RCHM(E), An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Huntingdonshire. London 1926, 275-76.