Some photos of Guyhirn Chapel - a place in the heart of the Fens built for the preaching of the word

A couple of weeks ago an old Oxford college friend and I went out into the Fens for a day. He and I share a great love of this landscape and its history. My love for the fens has grown over the twelve years I've lived in Cambridge but his goes much further back since he spent some of his childhood in Doddington where his great-grandparents and grandparents once farmed. One of the places we visited that day was Guyhirn and what is now known as the Chapel of Ease. It's a place built for the preaching of the word and, as a great lover of the Biblical text, I find this place overwhelmingly evocative of the kind of English Christian spirituality into which I was born and to which, for all my theological scepticism, I remain utterly loyal.

However, regular readers of this blog will know that, despite my great love of the word I'm no Biblical fundamentalist, far from it - and though I must be careful about what is meant by this in fact I'm a certain kind of Christian Atheist. Anyway, the crucial point I want to make here in connection with this beautiful chapel and the word is that although I still think there is ‘the right word to speak, the one properly required for this sentence (if only [we] can hear it)’, in the end ‘it is the word properly required only for this sentence, not for the next or the next.’ As James C. Edwards goes on powerfully put it, ‘It is the right word, the only right word; but it is not the Word of the Lord, nor of any of the Philosophical Fathers’ (James C. Edwards, The Plain Sense of Things, Penn State Press 1996 p. 234)

Here, at Guyhirn on such a beautiful spring day, I was forcefully brought before the continued need always to be seeking the right word to speak to our own fractious times.


Matt said…
I love these kind of old, simple dissenter-type chapels. I think I could spend a year or so cycling around the country documenting them in photos and jusr sitting in them to take in the atmosphere.

I've recently found pleasure in looking through this gallery:

It would be good if Unitarians & Free Christians had something similar...
Yewtree said…
Matt, there is a Flickr group for UK Unitarians.

The Guyhirn chapel is indeed lovely (but I must say the pews look very uncomfortable). I like white walls and plain interiors; much more restful than polychrome and ornament, and somewhere where one can exercise the imagination fully.
Anonymous said…
Guyhirn is a recent discovery of mine - I came across it in the gap between Christmas and the New Year. Coincidentally a resolution had been to pick up where the Stuarts left off and learn about Cromwell. Being fen born and bred, I'd had no idea about the link with Wisbech and dissent.
Greetings Anon. Yes, it's a lovely place. Ah, Wisbech and dissent -- as you will have discovered there are some Unitarian connections. Richard Wright was a particular interest of mine whilst I was at college in Oxford. Anyway, I'm sure you've followed various internet links links through but here is his wikipedia entry if you are interested.

Richard Wright (1764–1836)

Good luck with your "church geekery" project and thanks for posting a comment.

Best wishes,

Dear Anon -- a quick PS. You can read a copy of Wright's "A Review of the Missionary Life and Labors of Richard Wright" (1824) at the following link:

A Review of the Missionary Life and Labors of Richard Wright