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Holy Trinity, Bottisham, Cambridgeshire

(52°13′15″N, 0°15′42″E)
TL 546 605
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Cambridgeshire
now Cambridgeshire
  • Ron Baxter
28 September 2016

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Feature Sets

Bottisham is a village on the N side of the A14, Cambridge to Newmarket road, midway between the two. The church stands alongside the village High Street, and is a very tall and imposing building, largely built of clunch and limestone with some flint in the W porch. It consists of a chancel; an aisled nave with clerestories and N and S porches, the N now used as a vestry; a W tower and a tall W porch with a giant-order arch facing the High Street. The chancel and the lower parts of the tower and the W porch are 13thc, and the remainder belong to an extensive early-14thc rebuilding. The nave has a wooden W gallery. The main restoration was by Charles Papworth in 1839-40; the W tower and porch were restored in 1849-50; the chancel refurbished in 1867 and its E wall rebuilt in 1875, and the S porch was repaired in 1870.

The E ends of both nave aisles have been screened off to form chapels, and in the N chapel, below the touching memorial to two infants of the Alington family, are a number of carved stones and tomb fragments, including the three Romanesque pieces described here: a tympanum, fragments of a font bowl, and a chevron voussoir. There is no Romanesque fabric in the church as far as can be seen.


Bottisham was held by Walter Giffard in 1086, when it was assessed at 10 hides. In 1066, 8 hides were held by Earl Harold and the remainder by Alric the Monk, who could not dispose of them without leave of the Abbot of Ramsey, whose man he was. These two hides were appropriated by Walter Giffard (father of the 1086 tenant) after the Conquest and never regained by the abbey. At Giffard’s death in 1084 the manor passed to his son Walter who was created Earl of Buckingham by 1100 and died in 1102 to be succeeded by his son Walter, the 2nd earl who died without issue in 1164. The manor passed to King Henry II, who retained it until his death in 1189. Richard I divided the late earl’s manors among descendants of his aunt Rohese; Bottisham passing to Richard de Clare Earl of Hertford who held it until his death in 1217. For the later history of the manor, see VCH.

The advowson of the church was given by Walter Giffard (d.1164) to his foundation of Crendon Park (later Nutley Abbey), Bucks. Before 1213, however, Richard de Clare gave his rights in the church to Anglesey Priory, and the two houses disputed the right to present until they came to terms in 1222, Anglesey gaining the advowson in return for a pension.


Loose Sculpture


The decoration of a tympanum with a cross pattée is not unusual (e.g. at Hurley (Berkshire)), although there is not another example in Cambridgeshire known to me. The chevron voussoir is not sufficiently distinctive to draw any conclusions save that it may have belonged to the same doorway as the tympanum. The font fragments are said to have been found buried beneath the tower during one of the 19thc restorations of the church. Again I know of no close comparisons in the county, although it might be distantly related to a group in neighbouring Suffolk that includes Hawkedon, Kettlebaston and Preston St Mary, distinguished by square bowls with angle shafts and decoration on the faces.


S. Bradley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Cambridgeshire, New Haven and London 2014, 437-39.

Historic England Listed Building 49279

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Cambridgeshire, Harmondsworth 1954, 236-37.

RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Cambridge. II, 1972, 1-18.

Victoria County History: Cambridgeshire. X (2002), 196-205, 215-20.