The Round Church of Cambridge

The very magnificent character of the restoration of the Temple Church, London, has been attended with one undesirable effect—it has drawn away our attention from other labours of a similar and only less important character. Such, for instance, is the restoration of the Round Church of Cambridge, the oldest of the structures erected in England in the extraordinary circular form (Figs. 539 and 540). And what gives still higher interest to this building is the fact alleged that it was consecrated in the year 1101, or several years before the institution of the Order of Knight Templars; so that it can hardly be attributed to them. In a paper recently read before the Camden Society, the Church is supposed to have been founded by some one interested in the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem,—hence the imitation of the form of that building, and the name; and that the object in view was to make provision for constant prayers for the success of the Crusaders. We learn from the same pages some other interesting matters. The parish has been traditionally known as the Jewry, which designation it is supposed was given to it in consequence of the model of the most sacred of Jewish structures being placed in it. The stained glass votive window, with a saintly figure, which attracts the eyes of visitors to the restored Church, it appears preserves the memory of Bede’s legendary residence in the vicinity. Of the restoration of this important structure it is hardly possible to speak too highly. The entire funds, with the exception of some £1600 still required, have been raised by voluntary subscription, and expended by a little band of ardent and reverential lovers of all that is antique, grand, or beautiful in our ecclesiastical architecture. The Camden Society especially stands conspicuous in the good work, which has been carried on, we are sorry to learn, through “repeated interruptions and obstructions,” and which has—a common case—proved a much more elaborate and costly task than was anticipated. The substantial reparation of the decayed fabric was the object the committee set before themselves; and, much as these words include, it seems that they have found it necessary to add the enlargement of one aisle, the entire erection of another, a new bell-turret, “breaking up the unsightly uniformity of the rest of the building,” the entire fitting of the church with open seats and other necessary furniture in carved oak, and, lastly, the beautiful east window. They have thus involved themselves in debt to the amount before stated, but we do not think they will have relied in vain on the public sympathy and assistance. The stately solemn-looking fabric, so eloquent of those mighty primeval artists, those architectural giants of our early history, who “dreamt not of a perishable home” when they dedicated their skill and cunning to the service of the Almighty, appears again fresh as it were from their very hands. The restoration was completed and the church given up to the parish authorities on the last day of the year 1843, when a statement was made to the world, concerning which great is yet the clamour in local and theological publications. It was discovered that the restorers had erected a stone altar, instead of a wooden one, and that they had placed a credence—a stone shelf or table—for the display of the elements of the Sacrament. We leave the facts for our readers to weep over, or smile at, as they may sec occasion.

Of another of the establishments of the Templars, the Preceptory at Swingfield, situated about eight miles from Dover, and in which John is said to have resigned his crown to the Pope’s Legate, but little now remains, and that is used as a farm-house, while the foundations may be traced in various parts of the homestead. The eastern part, which was the most ancient (the Preceptory was founded before 1190), exhibits three lancet-shaped windows, above which are the same number of circular ones, and was probably the chapel (Fig. 543).