Sunday, 21 June 2020

Camden Cambridge Society and Cookham Dean

Having a few hours to go churching in the Cookham area I started at Cookham Dean.

St John the Baptist was built in the 1840s at the behest of the vicar of Cookham (down the hill and on the Thames) who saw the situation in Cookham Dean as where “ignorance and immorality had prevailed for some time past”.


Doors opened to welcome the souls of Cookham Dean in 1843 into their church, which a contemporary account described as 

‘A most satisfactory design; very simple, and yet not mean or starved; of unpretending but solemn character’.

St John the Baptist very imple yet not mean or starved


Although closed now the church enjoys a good situation and pleasant atmosphere. From the churchyard there are magnificent views East across the Thames valley to Cliveden.


Ten minutes away is the church of St James the Less in Stubbings, in the parish of Burchetts Green.  This is where my Aunt and Uncle worshipped for many years and are buried in the graveyard behind the church; a lovely situation, deeply carpeted in ox eye daisies at the time of my visit.


Similar in style to Cookham Dean’s church I discovered afterwards they were both built by the same architect; Richard Cromwell Carpenter (1812-1855). Carpenter it turns out was a favourite amongst the Cambridge Camden Society founded in 1839 by undergraduate students at Cambridge to promote ‘the study of Gothic Architecture, and of Ecclesiastical Antiques.’ So Carpenter and his chums were part of the gargantuan Gothic Revival.  


These two churches are lovely examples of how this movement could build in the Gothic style to create what is simple and decorative. As the guide to St James the Less describes 

‘the honest straightforward, soundly constructed, simple building, which was in the genuine medieval tradition’


Excellent resources for these churches with my thanks

Cookham Dean


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Thank you very much for your comments - Tim