St John the Baptist
The church of St John the Baptist (apparently once dedicated to St Peter) stands on a medieval site but is substantially a 19th century rebuild, the tower dating from 1848 and the remainder from 1854.
At least one doorway of 14th century date, the tower arch of c1530 and the four gargoyles below the tower parapet may all have been reused from the former building. The chancel had already been demolished as in 1827 the church was described as consisting of ‘a west tower and nave, both Perpendicular’.
The architect for the rebuilding was probably the then Rector, the Rev’d JH Sperling, a noted Ecclesiologist who introduced the striking chequerboard masonry that is such a feature of the exterior, but which is more commonly to be found further into East Anglia.
When the Friends took the church into care in 1979 it was largely derelict and facing demolition. The stained glass, designed by William Wailes, had been removed and the font thrown into the churchyard. The roof had been stripped of tiles and a demolition order published. Through the efforts of our founder, Ivor Bulmer-Thomas and the small local community, the Friends were able to obtain grant aid and bring the building back into use. The font was brought back into the church, major repairs carried out and a local Friends organisation was formed. The Friends of Papworth St Agnes hold regular events in the church, including a popular Harvest Supper, and in effect the church doubles as their village hall.
We are delighted that St John the Baptist now forms the beating heart of the community – with a list of activities to shame a church ‘in use’.
Local Friends Group
Along with Woodwalton and Milland, Papworth St Agnes is a church which has a very active formal group of local Friends, to whom we are hugely indebted and who have made this redundant church the very focal point of their community life.
It was the Local Friends who, in 1993, were instrumental in recovering one panel of original glass from safekeeping in the stained glass museum at Ely, and returning it to its church of origin. Other gifts such as the new sanctuary rails have greatly enhanced the interior of this otherwise simple country church which is now used as a community centre, making it once more the centre of village life.
Contact the Friends office for more information about the Friends of Papworth St Agnes.