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Little Gidding

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Little Gidding

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Little Gidding is a tiny village between Cambridge and Peterborough in Cambridgeshire, England, made famous by TS Eliot and Nicholas Ferrar


Although there has been a church in Little Gidding since the thirteenth century, it became more widely known as a result of Nicholas Ferrar bringing his large household of over 40 people in the early 1600s. Ferrar was originally from London and studied medicine at Clare College Cambridge. He spent a few years abroad, travelling through Germany, Italy, and Spain, where he no doubt encountered the spiritual revival that was going in Catholic areas during the Counter-Reformation, and the writings of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross. He returned and directed the Virginia Company before it was suppressed by the King. After this, he left with his family and began a new life in Little Gidding.

Get in[edit]

The village is located between Cambridge and Peterborough off the A15. More specifically, it is between Great Gidding and Steeple Gidding; Great Gidding is between Winwick and Glatton. By car, one would take the A15, get off on the Great Northern Road towards Glatton, and turn left in Great Gidding, then right. There is no public transport; if you have a bike, you can take the train to Peterborough, then cycle south through Farcet, Yaxley, Holme, Glatton, and Great Gidding. Its a 14 mile cycle.

Get around[edit]

See[edit][add listing]

There is not very much in the way of sights, however, all who visit comment on the peace, quiet and prayerful atmosphere. The very things which so affected Eliot in 1936. The present Ferrar house is modern and not of much interest, except for purposes of hospitality. The Ferrar House Warden staffs the house, which is principally a Retreat Centre, and offers some bed and breakfast facilities. The house also sells light refreshments, and the Warden would be happy to tell you more about the Ferrars.

The church is very old, but is largely a restoration. It was restored first in the 1620s by the Ferrars and then again in the 1700s. After the reformation, the church was used mostly as a hayshed until the Ferrars restored it. It was then sacked, looted, and damaged by the puritans during the civil war, and restored into basically its present state later. It is a very small church; architecturally not nearly as interesting as the Cathedrals in Peterborough and Ely or as King's or St. John's college chapel. What makes the place worth visiting is its history with Nicholas Ferrar's spirituality, and TS Eliot's visit in 1936.

Inside the church are typical choir benches; again, nothing of any great architectural interest. The only stained glass is family coats-of-arms. There is no crucifix in the east window, except a very small altar cross. Behind the altar is a brass engraving of the ten commandments and the Lord's prayer. There are also more recent wall hangings with lines from TS Eliot's poem Little Gidding, as well as from George Herbert.

The whole site - house, church, gardens and surrounding countryside - offer an integrated space of peace and quiet where prayer has been said for centuries and continues to be said daily.

Do[edit][add listing]

The great part of the experience is sitting in the choir reading TS Eliot - especially "Little Gidding". One really gets a sense of what Eliot must have experienced. This is something every Eliot fan ought to do. It was Little Gidding where the issues of the self and history that had plagued him since The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock and The Waste-Land came together for him, and it is worth a visit.

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Get out[edit]

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