Great Paxton is a small village on the outskirts of St Neots in Cambridgeshire. It is set well back from the road and is not easily visible. Externally it looks unremarkable but the sharp-eyed church enthusiast will spot a nave of unusual height and a clerestory with round-headed windows. For this church is one of only three surviving Anglo-Saxon aisled churches in England. The others are Brixworth in Northants and Lydd in Kent - and precious little of the Anglo-Saxon church remains at Lydd. As Pevsner notes, Brixworth has aisle arches that are simply cut into the wall. Great Paxton, however, has arcades that are formed of carved piers and columns. This is the only place in England where you can see this.
It isn’t clear why such a church should be here: few Anglo-Saxon churches were built of stone. That this one is means that it was likely to have housed a monastic foundation. Moreover, King Edward the Confessor held land here so perhaps that is a clue. Not for the first time, I am forced to comment that “Anglo-Saxon” is a pretty useless term architecturally. Great Paxton was built in the early to mid eleventh century whereas the earliest parts of Brixworth date from the 8th century. They might be Anglo-Saxon in the historical sense but Great Paxton has little more architectural affinity with Brixworth than it does with the Perpendicular church of nearby St Neots! In truth, both Brixworth and Great Paxton are pretty well unique.
Great Paxton is clearly of the Romanesque style of architecture: it had the aisles and clerestory characteristic of the Roman basilica and probably