Medieval church that 'was essentially a bush' transformed after incredible makeover

George Martin
·2-min read

An 800-year-old church has been restored after falling into disrepair for decades and becoming "essentially a bush".

St Denis Church in East Hatley, Cambridgeshire, was built in the 13th century and last used in the 1960s.

In the past few years its roof had caved in, its floorboards had rotted away and it had become overgrown with enormous amounts of ivy.

South Cambridgeshire District Council took it over and decided to preserve it as a nature reserve because of the rich array of wildlife living there.

St Denis Church East Hatley hidden in ivy. (SWNS)
St Denis Church East Hatley hidden in ivy. (SWNS)

Now, thanks to the council, English Heritage and the Friends of Friendless Churches group, St Denis’s has now undergone a complete overhaul.

The project began in 2016 and has cost around £200,000 to date, with only a few finishing touches left to be applied.

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Rachel Morley, director of Friends of Friendless Churches, said: "It was definitely a tricky case. It was absolutely covered in ivy, shrubs and hedges.

"When I first went in it didn't have any floor, or glass in the windows. It was a very sad church.

The church after restoration. (SWNS)
The church after restoration. (SWNS)
The restored chancel nave floor, looking towards the nave. (SWNS)
The restored chancel nave floor, looking towards the nave. (SWNS)

"It's got such a rich history that was overlooked for decades. To be able to reveal that and share it with the community was really special."

The nave of the church dates back to 1217 and was built using field stone, an indication that the people who constructed it were poor.

In the 17th century, the church was part of the estate of Sir George Downing, 3rd Baronet, who founded Downing College at the nearby Cambridge University.

His family's coat of arms is inside the church over the main entrance.

The group says that while a lot has been done to make the church usable again, a lot more finishes and internal repairs remain to be completed.

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