The Flying Angels of St Wendreda Church

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St Wendreda in March, Cambridgeshire is really just a roof full of angels and thats all there is to it, angels, angels everywhere.  I have explored the exterior of the church on a pervious posting so now it’s the time of the angels.

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I have tried hard with the photos to get over the awe inspiring feeling you get when you first see them, unfortunately I am not a photographer in the true sense, I am a snapper as I have said before, hopefully I am improving, but I like to document things more then being artistic, although I suppose you can do both if you are gifted.  But I am happy with my attempts and hope the old saying….practice makes prefect…is true.  Anyway back to the church, on the exterior posting of St Wendreda there are details of the church, this posting is more about the angels as they really deserve a post of their own.

The roof is a double hammer beam, made of wood that has weathered unevenly so that the rich brown is patched with uneven rosy highlights.  This magnificent roof should be in a magnificent building, but the church is just rather pleasant than magnificent, but maybe this is the reason that the angels survived.  The building of the roof seems to be dated from 1523 and 1526, with money given by William Dredeman.

During the English Reformation idolatrous items like the angels, were being destroyed throughout the country, and when Henry VIII’s commissioners arrived the angels seem doomed. But some quick thinking on the part of the merchants helped by welcoming them with food, drink and loading them with church silverware, so the 120 angels stayed flying in the roof, well thats how the story goes.  But they did survive Cromwell’s troops, death watch beetle, and are still in remarkably good condition.

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Although it is called the ‘angel roof’ there are other figures represented which include martyrs, apostles and saints.

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The carvings are fixed to the king-post, are of the highest order, and really quite astonishing.

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The corbel angels are the best they carry musical instruments, and on their backs they carry statues of the saints.  The roof is so rich that is shades everything else, but then what does it matter, the church has one of the best timber ceilings in the county, in my view, in the country so far.

49 comments

    1. Thank you so much ….I’m glad too, I visit so many churches where there would have been angels, I like to think they flew away rather than they were hacked down 🙂

  1. It really is a stunner – I’d love to be able to talk to the men who carved them. If the roof was relatively recent at the Reformation, perhaps the locals were concerned to protect their investment – good for us that they did anyway. I wonder if ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ tops the charts in the St Wendreda Christmas Charts…

    1. Thank you Rachael…..but I did find they were good models 🙂 so it wasn’t too hard to take good snaps 🙂 Thank goodness they could be bribed and just wonder about the other churches that still have their angels, it could have been that they had the same commissioners…….

  2. Does anybody here know how I can ask about using one of the photos here? “dsc_0717.jpg”? I haven’t worked out how / who to ask. Thanks in advance, Adrian

      1. Hi there. I wanted to possibly use dsc_0717 of the roof, (but I’d need the highest resolution possible.) Basically, I run a small record label and we’re releasing a disc of songs by a counter-tenor called James Bowman. The title of the disc is “Thus Angels Sung’ and so we wanted to try a cover using part of the shot of this roof if it is a higher resolution as a possible cover. I could email you or call you about it. I don’t know if you have my email address, but you can always email me at adrian@conviviumrecords.co.uk In terms of the use, if we can, we could obviously give you a credit and possibly a few free discs. Adrian

    1. Hi Adrian, I will email you tomorrow, I can do the photo at a much higher resolution, but I want to make sure I do it right. I like the sound of the angels on a record label, should look great.
      Lynne

      1. Hi Adrian, I had trouble with the internet last night, I think the only way I can get the photo to you is if I can change this one to 300 at the moment it is 72, if this makes sense and then you can copy it. Let me know if that is ok. I do not have an email account on this PC, its just kept for the blog and all my photos are are kept in iPhotos,
        Lynne

      2. That would be great thank you. Whatever is the highest possible resolution and when you let me know, I’ll download it of the page. Thank you. Adrian

      3. Hi Adrian, I am having trouble at the moment with the internet. All my photos on the blog that have more than one photo per page are not showing on my pc. I came to work, we have our own company, so I though I could be it with my works pc, but its something to do with the server. So later when I get home I will do a new post, with the new photo, fingers crossed.
        Lynne

      4. Hi Adrain, I have put on a new post for the photo at the higher resolution, hope its ok. Please let me know when you have finished so I can remove it.
        Lynne

      5. Dear Lynne, thank you so much. Obviously it will be altered to make the cover. I can credit you in the booklet if you like for the image use, (assuming my designer can make it work), but I’ll need your full name. You can always email me or call me. My email address is adrian@conviviumrecords.co.uk / 07724631797.

        Kindest Regards,

        Adrian

      6. Hi Adrian, so glad that worked. I would love a credit if poss, I will email you my name tomorrow from work. I would love to see it when its finished, if it works 🙂
        Kind Regards,
        Lynne

  3. Thank you. If you mention in your email that you’re happy for me to use and amend the image (free of charge) it and I’ll make sure your full name is credited. (We’ll make up a description for it if needed.) Also, if you send an address, then I’ll get you a few copies in the post (by way of thanks). We’re also doing a limited edition presentation box for this disc, so I’ll make sure you get one of these too. I’ve just got it to the designer and I think he’s going to do a lot of touching up, but I think we’ll get something nice out of it. Kindest Regards, Adrian

    1. Hi Adrian, yes I will mention everything in the email and it sounds really interesting. I’m just glad that my photo inspired an idea, if thats what it did and it will be interesting to see what the designer does with it.
      Kindest regards,
      Lynne

  4. Documenting is a word I use in reference to my snaps also but I think you put enough thought and creativity into your work that your images can be called photographs and you a photographer. But what ever you call your images and writing I enjoy them. Thanks again for sharing.

    1. Thank you Brick, I think I have progress a little since 2013, but the fun is in trying and as to writing….I am just glad you can understand it, I am so envious of people, like yourself that can paint a picture with words. But then it would be boring if we were all the same and luckily I love taking photos, not so much the writing,….ha ha, well not at all really 🙂

  5. Thanks so much for your superb pictures. They partly made up for us not being able to see it
    “in the flesh” today – as it was locked, and no key available as it went missing a week or so ago.
    Shame that the Church Wardens seem to have so little sense of responsibility in this matter, as
    I’m sure that we’re not the only people to travel a long way to see this historical and artistic marvel.
    Regards
    Bill Huband (Revd.) – Herefordshire.

    1. Hello Bill,
      So sorry that you didn’t get to see the angels. I was very lucky on the day I choose to visit, the church was only open because they were doing a sound check for the next Sunday service. It’s normally locked. The door was open and I was in like a flash, luckily the young men said it was ok and I took my photos. I’m afraid most of Cambridgeshire’s churches are locked, which is sad. Such a shame you had a wasted journey. But you do have some lovely churches in your part of the country and they are normally open, have visited lots. Anyway, so glad that you enjoyed the photos, and that at least you got to see them.
      Regards
      Lynne 🙂

      1. Hi. I visited yesterday and although the church was locked (the key which used to be at the garage was stolen) we called a churchwarden – there was a list of phone numbers on the outside of the church hall – and she came out and unlocked the church for us. It was really kind as she had to drive to the church, but they obviously still want people to be able to see it.

  6. Hi Lynnne,

    I am studying in Manchester at the moment, writing my dissertation about the changing role of angels during the Protestant Reformation. I love this post and all the amazing pictures you have taken, not only of this angel roof but also all the stained glass images and other angel roofs. It would be great if I could have a chat with you about these posts and possible speak with you about including a couple of your images?

    Thank you so much for all the pics and info!! Sarah 🙂

      1. Hi lynne,

        I messaged you a few months ago about using some of your pictures in my dissertation at Uni. Could I please ask for permission to use an image of the roof angels at Pinchbeck church in Lincolnshire? I would just need your full name to cite in my work.

        Thank you!

  7. What a ravishing piece of work, like nothing else, makes you curious about the creative mind/minds that came up with it; in a small space it feels more personal than the grand work of cathedrals

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