Swaffham Bulbeck village green
Swaffham Bulbeck is a village in Cambridgeshire, at the fen edge, about 8 miles from the City of Cambridge, and 6 miles from the famous racing town of Newmarket. The parish of Swaffham Bulbeck is part of the Diocese of Ely.
The neighbouring village is Swaffham Prior.
Culture and community
Every year the village summer theatre company produces and performs one of Gilbert and Sullivan's operas. Established in 1982 the company has run every year since, first at the Long Barn to the south of the village until its redevelopment in 1988 and then to a much more capacious setting in a barn central to the village by kind permission of the owner. This venue too has now come up for redevelopment and the production is now based at Downing Farm by kind permission of the Turner family.
The church is dedicated to St Mary the Virgin. The west tower was built in the early 13th century and is the most ancient part of a very ancient building. The tower is 12½ feet square with three storeys and is supported by eight buttresses. It is built of locally quarried clunch (from Burwell).
The nave was constructed in the first half of the 13th century. It consists of four uniform bays with six octagonal piers supporting the clerestory which was added in the 15th century. The north aisle was built in about 1300 and the south aisle a few years later.
Apart from some fragments of 14th and 15th century stained glass in the north aisle, all the 10 windows in the aisles and 8 in the celestorey are of plain leaded glass. The nave is some 57 feet long by 21 feet wide and the aisles are 11 feet wide. The church can seat about 200 people at full capacity.
The churchyard contains many interesting gravestones — there are six tomb chests, the earliest dating from 1742, and about 35 headstones with shaped tops dating from 1703 onwards.
As regards the vicarage, in the late 1970s it was decided by the parish that the village no longer required a vicarage of its own. It was sold to the public, and now provides bed and breakfast accommodation. It is erroneously now called The Old Rectory.
The village is located just beyond the end of Swaffham Bulbeck Lode, a man-made waterway connected to the River Cam. The hamlet of Commercial End, at the northern edge of the village, was an important inland port from mediæval times, although the waterway had been in use since Roman times. Principal buildings include the late 17th century Merchants House, which had a counting house added in the mid 18th century. Workers' cottages and warehouses were added to the street by Thomas Bowyer, after he acquired the house in 1805. River trade declined once the railways reached the area, and the house and contents were sold after 1877. The street retains its 18th and early 19th century character, although the lode is now only navigable as far as Slade Farm, some 2 miles away.
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