Kate's blog, Detached bell tower churches of the Cambridgeshire Fens - Katey Jane Photography

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Kate's blog, Detached bell tower churches of the Cambridgeshire Fens

The hidden wonders of the Fens UK

Posted 20/01/2018

The Fens may be bland and extremely flat to me but we do have a few wonderful sights. Dotted around the Fens stands just a few rare detached bell tower churches with 3 being the stand out churches. The Fens covers parts of Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Lincolnshire.

The 3 stand out churches for me are Fleet churchTydd St Giles and West Walton all 3 have towers that stand well clear from the main buildings and are such a wonderful sight for anyone interested in architecture and photography.

Photography of these wonderful buildings offers up some great shots and personally it's best to wait until Autumn and throughout winter, they offer for some stunning black and white images with frost and fog being the best weather conditions to photograph in, it gives great mood and depth to these stunning buildings.

The UK once was full of stunning history but for me it's disappearing  fast, churches are broken in with many of the old  items stolen, the lead roofs removed, graves smashed by idiots and most churches are struggling for funds yet despite the issues they are one of the best ways to step back in time in the UK without visiting museums. It's great fun to wonder around these old buildings and when visiting some for a 2nd or 3rd time I will find something new.

I'm not into religion whatsoever but you don't have to be to love the architecture and history.

Tydd St Giles church Cambridgeshire

St Giles

St Giles

This church stands just off the main road through the village of Tydd St Giles. Tydd St Giles is one of those out the way villages, sitting out in the Fenland countryside and seems to be away from life and is the closest detached bell tower near me which is about 4 miles from my home village of Leverington.

St Giles church stands proud with it's tall Gothic window that is the first thing people will see when going through the gate and you may not see the bell tower that sits to the right side at the back of the grounds, when you first see the tower standing on it's own you may wonder why on earth did they do that. The first tower fell due to poor foundation issues and Fen blow, (Fen blow is the wind that often blows across the bland open and treeless landscapes), The tower to my knowledge isn't used any more for bell ringing but an old coffin bier which was found in the tower and has some interesting facts.

When the sight of a shrouded body passing along the street was no longer acceptable, the body was placed in a wooden shroud (coffin). A Parrish Coffin was kept at the church and used time and time again until fashions changed and each body was given it's own coffin.

The name 'Tydd' is known to derive from a corruption of the word "Tide", as the village was home to an important sluice used for draining the Fens.

Inside the church, it has been through some restoration work with a small East window being of stain glass type. The organ is stunning and I loved it's muted colours and don't forget the rather nice wooden model. full gallery image Here.

Around St Giles

St Mary West Walton Norfolk

St Mary

West Walton village stands just outside Wisbech Cambridgeshire and the village is just inside the Norfolk county and again has another detached bell tower.  The main building stands is a mid sized grounds with a few older headstones dotted here and there, I did wonder where the modern village graveyard was but found it on Google which is across the road.

When you look at the main building, you may wonder how it's still standing, it's bent, warped and cracked yet still stands, a testament to the builders all those years ago, Saint Mary's dates from the 13th century built about 1240 with the bell tower standing some 60 feet away, the tower has stone parapet walls.

Walking inside the main building and it is (mostly open).  The first thing you may well see will be the 24 the hammer beam roof carved angels holding shields, the roof dates from the 15th century. I think this church's angels were stunning, with each one having a different face and a different thing.

Camera kit used, due to the size of the grounds and with the detached tower, used my canon   EF-S 10-22 mm f/3.5-4.5 USM Amazon and the canon EF 100-400 mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Amazon the 100-400 came in handy for photographing the roof angels, they are out of range for shorter lenses but lighting can be an issues with most churches, so use a tripod or try what I normally do, sit on the floor and elbows on knees and form a human tripod (trust me it works) Depending on whats inside, will often use my macro which gives a wonder DOF to many subjects.

Use canon 7d MK2.  My way of doing things, using lowest ISO I can managed, this makes me concentrate much more, turning the cameras soft shutter on  (cuts down on shutter slap) Depending on the lighting, spot metering in full manual mode, no auto used ever in all my work! you need to know where your cameras clipping points are, my 7d clips at around 2.5 stops, so I know I can maximise the lighting each time when there's high contrast images around.

These Technics works for all indoor and outdoor shooting where the contrast levels are strong. For full image galley click Here.

Around West Walton church

Terrington St Clements church Norfolk

St Clements Norfolk

 When you first see this church you may be forgiven in thinking it's a cathedral, well you sort of right with it's nick name, the cathedral of the marsh but it's just a church and mighty one too.

St Clements church is one of 3 so called cathedral of the Fens with Gedney and Walpole St Peter all 3 being having their own unique look and of course this being of detached tower type, their scale for village churches is outstanding with maybe Gedney church having the smallest churchyard.

Wondering around St Clements you will find vast grounds and set under the tree that can be just seen to the right of the building, (image above) a set of graves that was rushed, it is believed to the black death that caused the death of 7 stone masons and upon walking in the church, look for the carved heads in the nave on the main arches, a few are missing, they never got to finish the building, the masons was struck down by the plague around 1349 and the church was later finished in different styles.

If you plan to visit, the key to the building is in the local shop (I'm told). Try to visit on a sunny day because the upper windows have a wonderful array of colours that shine on to the walls and floors, it gives the church a dramatic look. The transepts with the middle roof is just stunning and if you have a wide angle lens, it will work well here. 

Around Terrington

Churches and cathedrals are not just a religious symbol but a wonderful show of architecture, hand made by humans, showing carving in stone, wood and back then they had just simple tools, true craftsmen at work, they have stood the test of time for so long, seen generations come and go and no doubt will see many more. I wonder around these places and learn as I go.  I know very little about churches and write about them how I see and feel them, to see days gone by is a pleasure and it was a much simpler way of life back then. Time has stood still in these wonderful buildings yet times moves so fast in the modern world.

It's not just about a camera but to show you the sights I see and hopefully you will get a feeling of the places I visit their mood and forms in all weathers.


Check out my detached bell tower church info page here.

Getting there

If you planning to visit these churches, they are all easy to find and get to. The churchyards are never locked but beware that the doors may well be. The Key for the Terrington St Clements church is available from the local shop, you just sign your name for the key, the other churches I am not sure where the keys are but with West Walton and fleet they are normally open. My handy map features shows where these churches are.

Date of blog 13/01/2018

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