The Parish of Trumpington existed long before the Norman conquest and has been known by several spellings. Whilst the original dedication of the church is unknown, many churches had their dedication changed to St Nicholas in the early Middle Ages and Trumpington Church was known by this name in 1291. Documents later in the Middle Ages refer to the church as St Mary and St Michael, and it is this dedication by which the church is now known.
The church, as it stands today, however, was mostly built between 1200 and about 1330. One of the oldest parts of the church is the stone at the base of a pillar, at the back of the nave, laid in 1200. The nave was rebuilt in 1330 and there were several attempts to determine the true direction of east, which has resulted in the chancel and the tower not being in line. In the Middle Ages the church was endowed with stained glass and the walls were plastered and probably painted.
Chaucer's 'The Reeve's Tale' (from The Canterbury Tales) was written about the Miller at Trumpington. It begins:
At Trompynton, nat fer fro Canterbrigge, (Cambridge)
Ther goth a brook and over that a brigge,
Up-on the whyche brook ther tant a melle; (Mill)
And this is verray soth as I yow telle.
On the south side of the sanctuary there is an elaborate double piscina. Pope Innocent III ordered the construction of these in churches in 1216. The basins with drainage to earth are for the washing of the priest's hands before celebrating communion and also for the water that is used to wash the chalice after communion. After about 1300 a single piscina was considered sufficient for both functions. Examples of a single piscina can be found in both the north and south chapels.
The church contains the oldest surviving medieval glass in Cambridgeshire. Whilst much of the glass depicting saints and biblical figures was destroyed during the Reformation, heraldic motifs and purely decorative glass survived largely intact. More information about the stained glass of Trumpington can be found on the website of: The Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi (CVMA), the international research project dedicated to recording medieval stained glass.
The wooden rood screen, at the entrance to the chancel, dates from the 15th century. Its top was roughly sawn off during the Reformation, when these screens were seen as barriers between the priest and people.
The pulpit was given to the church by Thomas Allen in 1677 - it came from the old chapel of Emmanuel College after Christopher Wren designed the present chapel. Originally it was a three-decker pulpit with sounding board and stood in front of the first pillar in the nave.
The church contains a memorial window to Henry Fawcett (1833-1884) who was blinded in an accident aged 25. He later became the first professor of Political Economy in Cambridge, an MP, and Postmaster General in Gladstone's government, when he introduced parcel post. One of the primary schools in Trumpington is named after him. He is buried in the old churchyard just south of the chancel.
During the 19th Century the church was restored, with the roof being replaced and re-plastering undertaken. The outer walls of the church were restored in places, using Bath stone. The tall Georgian box pews were also renovated and restyled.
The church is surrounded by the old churchyard, which contains mostly 18th and 19th century graves. A walking route devised by members of Trumpington Local History Group gives an interesting insight into the history and interrelationships of some of the individuals and families who have lived in Trumpington in the last 300 years - see their website.
In 1893 a churchyard extension was opened on the corner of Shelford Road and Hauxton Road (opposite Waitrose). After about 100 years, the extension was also filled up and in the early 1990s, a piece of land to the south of the old churchyard, which had formerly been part of the vicarage garden, was purchased to become the new churchyard. The most recent burials and the cremated remains plot are sited here.
Trumpington bed burial
In 2012 archaeologists working on the Trumpington Meadows site discovered a 7th-century Anglo-Saxon bed burial for a young woman aged about 16 years old, in a field just to the south of the church. The occupant of the grave had been buried on a wooden bed, and had an ornate gold pectoral cross inlaid with garnets on her breast. The jewelled gold cross is very unusual, and can only have belonged to a member of a rich aristocratic family. It is thought that the grave must have been associated with a hitherto unknown Anglo-Saxon settlement near the site, perhaps that of a monastic community. Read more…
Sir Roger de Trumpington
Sir Roger was a knight involved in the crusades of 1270 alongside Prince Edward. After a very difficult journey the knights reached Palestine where they relieved Acre from a besieging army.
Once back in England, we have records of Sir Roger taking part in a tournament in Windsor in 1278. Little is heard of him thereafter until 1289 when he died, possessed of the manors of Trumpington and Girton in Cambridgeshire, Mogerhanger in Bedfordshire, and Tudenham in Suffolk, in addition to being Lord of Bensie in Shropshire.