All Saints' Church: A Brief History of the Building

Ch 1

There has been a church in Harston since Norman times, and probably
earlier. The first mention is in 1069 when the Lord of the Manor and
Sheriff of Cambridgeshire gave the Rectory to the Prior of Burwell. lt is
possible that the grotesque corbels supporting the nave roof could be
from this period.


Church 2

The main body of the present church was built about 1445 in the
perpendicular style. lt is virtually unaltered, although the roof of the
nave has been lowered: the higher roofline can be seen on the east face
of the tower. The tower is probably earlier and the chancel 19th century.

ln the mid sixteenth century (1559) the state of the church was
described as 'ruinous' and at later dates the chancel was pulled down
and rebuilt at least twice. The church as you see it today is several feet
shorter and a vestry has been added. The approach is unusual as it is
from the north, so this side of the church has a porch, larger windows
and a stair turret with a conical roof.

The Tower


The fifteenth century tower at the south end is a fine example of flint
and rubble construction and was probably built by Northamptonshire
stone masons. The buttresses clasping the corners are typical of their
work. The fact that the arch mouldings of the nave are flush with the
walls above may be another indication of their involvement {cf St
Nicholas Church, lslip, Northants.)  Major work on the tower was
carried out in 2010/11. This included underpinning and extensive
rebuilding of the parapets, stabilising the flintwork and repointing the
exterior, re-inforcing the spiral staircase, a new roof and new windows.

The Chancel

Looking east

The chancel and vestry are both Victorian. The chancel was rebuilt in
1805 and again in 1853/4 when the vestry was added and the east
window was inserted. Later, in 1890, the foundations of the former
chancel were found and revealed that it had been eight or nine feet
longer and probably wider.
Jesus College is the present lay rector and has responsibility for the
upkeep of the chancel. They replaced the chancel roof in 2006/7 when
repairs to the nave parapets and the rood turret were carried out.

Today the church is listed as Grade ll*

On entering, the visitor is struck by the unusual height of the nave and
the narrowness of the aisles, particularly the south aisle which is only
one metre wide. lt is possible that the nave was widened in 15th century
while keeping the earlier Norman foundation, at the expense of the
south aisle.

Towards south aisle

There are small chapels at the east end of both aisles, each with its
piscina (for washing the communion vessels in pre-reformation times)
The chantry chapel of the north aisle projects beyond the north wall a

The chancel arch is perpendicular and of the same date as the nave. The
wooden screen is mostly modern with some older elements
incorporated. The royal arms above the arch are of Queen Victoria,
1846, and rather crudely painted over other arms.

The north aisle windows have three lights while elsewhere the windows
have two. There is very little pre-19th century glass remaining.
Reporting on a visit to the church in 1743, Cole noted some 26 old glass
shields in the east window of the north aisle and the date 1449. Just a
few fragments remain now.

The Bells
ln pre-Reformation times there were three bells and a fourth was added
in 1560. ln 1930s the tower was strengthened and the present ring of
six bells were hung (1937) on ball bearings in a new iron and steel frame
by J. Taylor & Sons of Loughborough. The old timber frames were left in
their original position higher up in the tower.

The pulpit 


is perpendicular in style and probably dates, like the nave, to
15th century. Behind the pulpit is the stone spiral stair that originally led
to the rood loft and gives access to the aisle and nave roofs. These stairs
were re-opened in 1934 and there are two doors: one a ground level,
the other above the pulpit.

The font


probably as old as the nave, is perpendicular in style and was
placed in its current position in 1931 and the wooden cover added.

The organ used to stand on a platform at the west end of the nave,
filling the arch to the tower.  lt was moved in 1930 to its present
position when a vault was filled in. Part of it came from the former
organ of Peterborough Cathedral but only a few stops remain and the
case is mainly Victorian. The organ was completely rebuilt and extended
in L966/67 with a new console, pedal boards and manuals by E F
Johnson & Son of Cambridge.

The Norman Jones Annexe, with servery and accessible WC, was added in 2015/16 on the footprint
of a redundant boiler house outside the south door. 
The current restoration will see the removal of the pews and the replacement of the
flooring of the nave with Ancaster limestone. This is necessitated by the
damage to the pillars and pews from years of dampness. The latter will
be replaced with stackable chairs. A redecoration programme is
planned to follow on. All of these improvements will facilitate more
flexible uses of the buildings.
November 2020