September 27 – Godmanchester and Huntington

Oliver Cromwell was born in Huntingdon in 1599

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosiac

I had planned a route around Cambridgeshire to find lots of church micros but then we decided to do the route backwards heading to Godmanchester and Huntingdon first. I am glad we did as we spent all day in this area. First, we went to Godmanchester Baptist and we parked the car nearby. We could not find the cache and thought we would have to log a DNF. We went to do the other church micro further down the lane and on the way back we thought we would have one more look. We parked right in front and found it straight away. Weird eh?

At St Mary’s in Godmanchester, we quickly found the cache and went onto the church to have a look around. It was a great church with lots of lovely stained glass windows including a Burlison and Grylls in St Anne’s chapel. The wooden chancel screen had three statues above it and some shields on the screen walls. There were 20 wonderful 15th-century misericords and a 13th-century font. One misericord has the initials W.S on it, perhaps for William Stevens, vicar 1470-81. The misericords may have come from Ramsey or Huntingdon Abbey after the dissolution. The gilded wooden carved reredos was built by George Bodley who was also responsible for Perpendicular style chancel screen in 1901, with a coved cornice, cresting and unpainted rood figures. Outside we talked to a man who was mowing the lawns in the cemetery. He was very proud of the church and checked that we had seen all the highlights. Also in the cemetery, we saw a gravestone for a murdered woman which is apparently highly unusual but not the first we have seen. There are suppose to be only two in England. We saw the other one on October 8th 2017.

We drove over the old bridge from Godmanchester to Huntingdon, found a long stay car park and walked into the town. All Saints is a lovely church with several stained glass windows including a couple of Kempes. We talked to the vicar’s wife, Adele Birkinshaw who told us all about the history of the church. The church is also used as a cafe and there was a group of knitters preparing for a yarnbombing next month. The earliest mention of a church dates to 973 AD with the original dedication having been to either St Mary or The Blessed Virgin and All Martyrs. The chancel is Early English Period, but the main structure is in the Late Perpendicular Gothic style, dating from about the reign of Henry VII, and rebuilt in 1620. It was restored under the direction of Sir George Gilbert Scott when new oak roofs were added, and the old carving was retained wherever possible or faithfully reproduced. The pulpit is of carved alabaster and has an elaborate railing of metal work, in copper, brass and tin all resting on a stone base. The font is of carved stone supported on columns of Jasper, Irish and foreign marbles. A reredos of carved oak with figures, niches and canopies, was erected in the 1800’s. The church has been renovated three times in the last 170 years. Firstly in 1850 and there was no stained glass before this time, 1950 when all the pews, gallery and organ were removed and more recently in 2017 when a kitchen and toilet were added as well as replastering of the walls and oiling of the ceilings. There is a labyrinth on the nave floor which is an unusual feature. There is some hand adzed Saxon stone in the church. The stone corbels and wooden angels on the nave roof are rather lovely.

Oliver Cromwell was born in Huntingdon in 1599 and he was baptised in St John the Baptist church but in the font which stands in this church. Others of his family were baptised here, married and some like his father were buried at this church. This church was one of five churches where the body of Mary Queen of Scots on its way rested on its way from Peterborough Cathedral to Westminster Abbey. The church lies on Ermine St, the route that King Harold II used on his way north to Stamford Bridge three weeks before the Battle of Hastings.

We collected the numbers which we needed for the church micro multi and walked to the final down High St and through an alleyway and easily found the cache. On our way back we passed a cache called “Ollie does algebra”. It was a nano on a drain pipe but it needed quick reflexes to retrieve and replace without anyone seeing us especially as there was a guy standing just around the corner, luckily he was preoccupied on his cell phone.

St Mary’s church was closed and we were a bit confused about where to get the numbers at first. Then we saw the appropriate sign and we were able to collect the numbers. We tried to drive closer to the coordinates but after going all around town on the one-way system we ended up back at our original car park. We put some more money in the parking meter and set off to three caches which we had collected the coordinates for. After finding the geocache for St Mary’s church in the park we walked back passed a traditional cache at the bus station and collected that one as it had an excellent hint. We also walked past the site of the Huntingdon Castle, now only an undulating park beside the river but there was once a motte and bailey castle here and was the site of sieges and battles for power, of quiet religious contemplation and a place of punishment for prisoners.

We collected the numbers at the Spiritualist church and walked up the road to the old bridge across the river Grand Ouse. We looked for ages in all the corners as suggested in the hint but we could not find it anywhere and in the end, we had to call it a day.

Near the Huntingdon village sign, there is an amazing wooden sculpture of a tank and soldiers which are all planted out with flowers. It makes a magnificent display for the 100-year commemoration of the end of World War I in November 2018. The Huntingdon village sign is lovely with a display of red poppies made from the red plastic bases of fizzy bottles cascading down from it. We collected the numbers for the multi and walked to GZ on the other side of the old bridge where we found the cache. It is a pity that they could not find somewhere nicer to place the cache as it was just at the base of a fence post. I suppose it is better than a street sign.

On our way back we detoured slightly for another church micro for the Methodist church. We never found the church but we did find the cache. There was a car parked close to the GZ which was at the bottom of a telegraph pole but Mike pushed behind the car and threw the cache to me to sign. A guy was watching us nearby while he was having a cigarette, he must have thought we looked suspicious but then he laughed as knew what we were looking for.

By this time we were getting tired so we decided to call it a day but as we had to drive near to another church micro out in the suburbs we decided to look for one more. We found St Barnabas was a difficult place to drive to and found ourselves with no easy way to it so we parked the car and walked to GZ. We found the post which looks like an Easter Island statue but despite searching carefully and despite the prickles and the muggles, but we found nothing. We hate missing out on church micros.

A great day doing ten caches but only finding eight. Huntingdon was a lovely place and we enjoyed meeting the people. The minister’s wife at All Saints was very welcoming and very knowledgeable about the church and the history of Huntingdon. Her husband retires next month and they are off to New Zealand next year so we were able to give her a few tips and hope they enjoy their holiday in our lovely country.