Travel Report: Great St. Mary’s Church – Cambridge, England.

Great St. Mary's Church Cambridge.

May 2019. Another town, another pretty church. And like so many that have come before, Great St. Mary’s Church in Cambridge has its own unique story to make it a worthy addition to the LL library. Sat snugly between the University Senate House and Market Square, Great St. Mary’s dates back to 1205 and is the largest church in Cambridge. As seems to be the case with just about every church in history, it was completely destroyed by a fire in 1290 and rebuilt by the crown before being granted to Trinity College, who still own the great building today. Irish Mike and I were wandering about central Cambridge when we came upon. St. Mary’s, so we opportunistically ducked inside just as the first splatterings of rain came slanting down.

Visit Great St. Mary's Church Cambridge England.
Great St. Mary’s Church, Cambridge.

May 2019. Great St. Mary’s Church began life as a parish centre for university scholars, so the building often played host to historical lectures, degree ceremonies and grand city celebrations. The church bell tower was added in 1491, while Queen Elizabeth I famously popped in for a nosey in 1564.

Stephen Hawking funeral Great St. Mary's Church Cambridge March 2018.
Stephen Hawking’s funeral at Great St. Mary’s Church Cambridge. March 31st 2018. Photo courtesy of Haskan Kaya: https://twitter.com/HaskanKaya

Stephen Hawking was a visitor here during his student days and after the great man passed away in March 2018, an official funeral service was held at St. Mary’s with thousands of well-wishers lining the Cambridge streets. Actor Eddie Redmayne, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Hawking in the movie The Theory of Everything, also came to give a reading during the service.

Climb the tower Great St. Mary's Church Cambridge.
Great St. Mary’s Church, Cambridge.

May 2019. One of the joys of a visit to Great St. Mary’s is to climb the one hundred and twenty three steps (114 feet) up the bell tower for some decent views across Cambridge.

At the top of the tower Great St. Mary's Church Cambridge.
At the top of the tower Great St. Mary’s Church, Cambridge.

While it’s free to enter Great St. Mary’s Church, you’ll have to grab a ticket to climb the tower. You can get them from the fussy woman at the gift shop for £5 per person. Family tickets go for £15. On the way up you’ll see the bells and, if you’re lucky, get treated to a closeup chiming of the tower clock, which dates back to 1577. The ringing is known locally as The Cambridge Quarters, which was great inspired by London’s Big Ben. The narrow, steep climb had both Mike and I a little out of breath that day, so there was a modest sense of victory as we finally came out onto the viewing platform at the top!

Market Square from the top of Great St. Mary's Church Cambridge.
Market Square from the top of Great St. Mary’s Church.

The views are well worth the $5! To the east you’ve got Market Square, Holy Trinity Church and The Guildhall. Even on a crappy day like this it’s hard to deny Cambridge’s grace.

King's College Chapel from the top of Great St. Mary's Church Cambridge.
King’s College Chapel from the top of Great St. Mary’s Church.

To the south you can gaze out over King’s Parade, King’s College and King’s College Chapel and the churches of St. Edward’s and St. Benet’s.

On the top of the tower Great St. Mary's Church Cambridge
With German tourist and ducky friend, Great St. Mary’s Church.

As we were enjoying the views, Mike was approached by an eccentric German woman visiting Cambridge as a tourist. She had a few questions about which building was which and when she found out Mike was a local, the queries started coming thick and fast! Having had her many inquiries satisfied, she then asked him to take a picture with her mascot, a bright yellow soft toy duck. Why not?!?

Like this? Why not sift though more of my pieces from Cambridge.

Or maybe search further afield with my articles from all around England.

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Freelance travel writer, voice over and English teacher from London. Former music and film journalist, interviewer of the stars. Passionate about travel, film, music, football, Indian food.

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