St Mary Magdalene, Ickleton

Ickleton is an elegant, architecturally distinguished village on the western side of the River Granta, just where the ancient trade-route of the Icknield Way crossed over. Walk along Abbey Street, and you can see a lot of the village’s history on display. From the name of the street to the pieces of masonry in the walls of the houses, reminders are everywhere of Ickleton’s role in the middle ages as the home of an important Benedictine nunnery.

But our most amazing inheritance from that time was hidden away for 400 years, and only came to light by accident. In 1979, an arson attack on the church unexpectedly revealed rare and beautiful wall paintings beneath the whitewash of the nave. They date from the 12th century, and they are unique in England. Nowhere else has such early surviving art from an age when every church had illustrations of saints’ lives and Bible stories bursting out all over the walls, like holy picture books or sacred comic strips. On summer days, Ickleton church’s frescoes glow in the sunlight in shades of rose and brown. In winter, by the candlelight of evensong, they make the past generations of Ickleton Christians seem very close.

In the present, the church is at the heart of a vigorous and active community life. It’s the venue, for example, for the famous Ickleton Coffee Mornings, where the coffee is very fine but the baking is of an excellence to make your mouth drop open. (Watch out for crumbs.) Yes, we’re boasting, but our boasts are justified. See for yourself. Come along on Tuesdays at 10am, and join a good fraction of Ickleton’s entire population. (That’s every Tuesday in the summer, first Tuesday in the month in wintertime.)

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