Photographs by the present author, who also retrieved the Victorian illustrations. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. Click on all the images for larger pictures.]

Left: The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, generally known as the Round Church, Cambridge. Right: The north side of the church, with Salvin's small two-bell bell-turret. 1841-43. Restored by Anthony Salvin (1799-1881). On the corner of Sidney Street and Round Church Street, diagonally opposite St John's College, Cambridge. This is the second oldest building in Cambridge, next to St Benedict's (St Bene'ts), which has a Saxon tower. Like the Temple Church at the Inns of Court in London, it is one of the few surviving medieval churches founded after the First Crusade and built on the model of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Like the Temple Church too, its restoration was a high profile project, especially since it was financed by the Cambridge Camden Society as a kind of showpiece. A restoration committee was formed and Salvin appointed as the architect: "The restoration was to be 'both complete and correct,' a work 'which should be lasting, and if possible a perfect example of the principles of church building which the Society have advocated in their various publications.'" The idea therefore was to demonstrate to "'future church-restorers, and to the world our example of what can be done and how'" (White 161).

Left: The church before restoration (Atkinson 166). Right: A plan of the church after restoration, showing how it was altered. The broken lines indicate older work destroyed, while the unbroken lines indicate the new work. The changes were clearly very substantial, especially bearing in mind the fact that "those old parts which were not destroyed were 'repaired and beautified,' or 'dressed and pointed,' or 'thoroughly restored'" (Atkinson 167). Salvin's restoration here is described by his biographer as "famous" (Allibone 63), and indeed it was. But, as she explains herself, it was very drastic. The round nave was "ruthlessly stripped of later additions, apart from the fourteenth century chancel. The central tower was reduced to its original height and given a conical roof; the windows in both tower and aisles were replaced by new round-headed windows copied from one surviviving Norman example in the clerestory" (Allibone 90). An entirely new south aisle was added, too, as was much of what the listing text calls the "Eastern arm" of the church. The building looked less top-heavy after restoration, and was safer and sounder in that respect. It looked more picturesque, as well. But what now stood at the corner of the street here was "largely a nineteenth-century building rather than a medieval structure," admits James White, adding, "The same was to happen to many other ancient buildings" (162).

Left: Looking towards the east window. This is a post-war replacement, not the original by Thomas Willement. Right: Looking up towards the clerestory. Judith Brine describes the project as a popular one, "well publicized by the Society and supported by the University, which included a picture of the remodelled church on the cover of its prospectus." Someone signing himself only "Cantab" wrote to the editor of the Morning Post of Tuesday 24 Oct. 1843, suggesting that the Queen and Prince Albert might like to see the church on their forthcoming visit to Cambridge, and offering a drawing of it which the newspaper was unable to print. The newspaper did add, however, that the church "was really worth looking at," and it is clear that the royal couple did visit it. The Morning Post of 5 February 1844 reported that Queen Victoria "witnessed the beauty of the sacred edifice" when she visited Cambridge, and had contributed to the restoration committee's fund. Prince Albert gave a separate donation just afterwards, this being reported in the Court Circular of the Morning Chronicle of 26 February 1844. They were obviously suitably impressed by Salvin's work. At that time, Brine explains, this kind of "restoration and recreation was well understood to be an integral part of the restoration of the traditional church in England" and Salvin's work "was widely regarded as a model of what church restoration should be" (14).

The church's Victorian encaustic tiles, which were being laid in October 1843, when "Cantab" wrote to the Morning Post.

But the Society's triumph was marred by a long-running and heated row over the fittings. The incumbent himself wrote to The Times on 7 August 1844, declaring that the stone altar and credence table were "abominations of Popery" (Faulkner 6). He then fought tooth and nail to have them removed, occasioning a leader in The Times of 1 January 1845 supporting him against "an intrusive and Romanizing Society" (4). Perhaps there was bound to be some sticking point like this, when the whole aim was to restore the church to its original (Catholic) form, especially in the context of reforming the church. "The defeat of the Society in this matter, together with like incidents, spelt its downfall," says Brine, reminding us that the Society's ideas were largely tied to those of the Oxford Movement, and that it inevitably suffered with the "widespread hysteria" over Cardinal Newman's conversion to Catholicism in 1845 (15).

The heyday of the Cambridge Camden Society was brief. But its organ, The Ecclesiologist, outlived it, and the society formed again in London in the following year, as the Ecclesiological Society. Both society and journal would continue until 1868, and have a major influence on church building and restoration during that period, steadfastly promoting the Gothic and strict adherence to archaeological principles, and never shirking controversy. The society was then re-founded in 1879 by one of the original founders, Sir Alexander Beresford-Hope, first as the St Paul's Ecclesiological Society, then, from 1937 as simply the Ecclesiological Society again. It is still very much in existence (see offsite here) and publishes a periodical called Ecclesiology Today. As for the Round Church, its congregation now meets at nearby St Andrew the Great, leaving it as a "hub" for the Christian Heritage organisation, and an important stop on the tourist trail.


Allibone, Jill. Anthony Salvin: Pioneer of Gothic Revival Architecture. Cambridge: Lutterworth, 1988.

Atkinson, Thomas Dinham. Cambridge Described and Illustrated: Being a Short History of the Town and University. London: Macmillan, 1897. Web. 16 December 2011.

Brine, Judith. "The Religious Intentions of the Cambridge Camden Society and their Effect on the Gothic Revival." Fabrications 2/3 (1990-91): 4-18. Web. 16 December 2011.

"Cantab." Letter to the editor. Morning Post, 24 Oct. 1843, (page not visible). 19c British Library Newspapers (Gale). Web. 16 December 2011.

"Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Cambridge." British Listed Buildings. Web. 16 December 2011.

"Court Circular." Morning Chronicle, 26 Feb. 1844, p.5. 19c British Library Newspapers (Gale). Web. 16 December 2011.

Faulkner, R. R. The Times, 7 Aug. 1844, p.6. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 16 December 2011.

"Her Majesty &c." Morning Post, 5 Feb. 1844, p.6. 19c British Library Newspapers (Gale). Web. 16 December 2011.

Leader, The Times, 1 January 1845, p.4. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 16 December 2011.

White, James F. The Cambridge Movement: The Ecclesiologists and the Gothic Revival. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962 (reissued 1979).

Last modified 16 December 2011