Along with nearby Barnack, the church of St Kyneburgha at Castor is probably my most favourite within the catchment area of this website. As with Barnack, I have decided to devote two pages to this church. This page will feature exterior photographs, the page immediately below this in the Cambs A-F menu featuring photographs of the interior.
The church is built in the courtyard of what was the second largest Romnan Palace, a Pretorium, that has ever been excavated in this country. The whole area is covered in Roman history, and was excavatade in the 1840's by Edmund Artis, whose grave still stands today near to the porch, with a stone Roman coffin situated nearby! Castor Junior school, which is situated immediately to the South of the church, had Roman Baths in their grounds. It has been suggested that there was a Roman Temple within the Pretorium, making this site a place of worship since the 4th Century!
The Roman Pretorium was abandoned in around AD 450, and 200 years later St Kyneburgha, who was a daughter of Penda the King of Mercia, founded a convent in the ruins. This was excavated in 1957 and evidence was found to suggest that the convent had been sacked by the Vikings at some point in the ninth century
This church is quite rightly famous for its beautiful Norman tower. With the church standing proudly on high ground, it dominates the landscape for literally miles around in all directions. The tower is built in three stages. The first stage is plain masonry, the second consists of tyhree sub divided round arches on each of the four sides. The third stage consists of five sub divided round arches. Each stage is separated by a corbel table featuring some unusual carvings. The tower is magnificent, and nearly 1000 years old. The tower was dedicated by the Normans and there is an inscription above the priests door in the South wall of the chancel, Latin abbreviatioin, which reads "The dedication of this church was on the 17th April AD 1124".
Also worth noting is a Saxon Carving of Christ In Majesty, which can be seen above the South porch. This must have been moved here and re-set in to the porch at some point. In this carving, Christ holds His hands up in blessing, whilst surrounded by the Sun and the Moon, as the High King of Heaven.
Above, Christ In Majesty, a Saxon carving which can be seen over the South Porch. Below, an inscription over the Preists door on the South side of the church noting that the tower was dedicated in 1124. Note the red tiles in the stonework. These are Roman and were taken from the ruins of the Roman Palace which stood where the church is now.