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The East Coast Main Line between London and Scotland rattles past at least twenty times a day, just a couple of hundred yards from the church’s creamy limestone tower. Standing proud in the Cambridgeshire Fens, it has become a milestone for travellers.
Up close (and not passing by at 100mph), visitors will find a rubble church built and rebuilt throughout the 13th– 16th and 19th centuries.
Inside, you’ll find carved stone coffin lids, Early English arcading to the north aisle and Perpendicular to the south, Neo-Classical monuments and dazzling Victorian tiles.
But St Andrew’s has always been prey to thieves. A record from 1549 tells us, “Woddwaltton Stoln out of the Church…ii handbells.” There were more serious thefts in 1956 and 1964 when lead was stripped from the roofs, letting in rain, and hastening the church’s deterioration and closure.
Its remoteness contributed to its abandonment in the 1970s. It was left vulnerable, suffering vandalism and decay.
We adopted St Andrew’s in 1979, but after countless repair campaigns, it remains one of our biggest conservation challenges, for one simple reason…
It may not seem like it to the passengers whizzing past, but this steadfast landmark is also on the move. The floor of the chancel is cracked and heaving; the window heads fractured, and the entire church is inherently much less stable than its thick stone walls would suggest. The quality of Victorian restoration may be one culprit; the landscape’s clay soil and poor drainage may be the other.
Recent monitoring and repair campaigns will hopefully help us to manage the movement better, and allow us to address the more cosmetic repair needs.
Two beautiful stained-glass windows of c.1310 depicting St Catherine and St Lawrence had to be removed from the church as the structural movement was damaging them. They are now on loan to the Stained Glass Museum in Ely, waiting for the day when their church will be stable enough to hold them in their rightful place once again.