Great Wilbraham, Cambridge
St Nicholas’s is a Grade 2* twelfth-century parish church in Great Wilbraham, to the east of Cambridge. The original building was remodelled in the thirteenth century in a cruciform plan, and the west tower, which houses six bells, was added by the fifteenth century. The aim of the project, which focused on the west end, was to enable the church to cater for a wider range of activities, both for church members and for the wider community.
A makeshift kitchen and timber screening – the remains of a Victorian vestry – were removed from the south west corner of the nave, and a new kitchen and accessible WC created in the base of the tower. This then required the creation of a new ringing floor above, accessed by a stair from the nave, giving the regular bell-ringers an exciting new home with more space for teaching; incised graffiti on the tower arch show that there was clearly some form of earlier gallery, presumably removed in the Victorian restoration. At the west end of the nave some pews were removed, the floor levelled, and the early twelfth-century font moved eastwards to create a coherent and flexible open space.
The new kitchen allows for the provision of refreshments, and with the WC has transformed the use of the church. Alongside these functional benefits, the gallery provides the most obvious addition. The glazed guarding to both gallery edge and to the medieval west window opens up the view down the length of the church, and introduces some theatricality into the space, allowing the dramatic positioning of readers or musicians. The quality materials are detailed in a modern idiom, allowing the alterations to speak confidently of their current era; they thus form a distinct ‘chapter’ that complements and extends the ‘narrative’ of the existing building.
In 2017 this project received an Engage Award from the Cambridgeshire Historic Churches Trust.