Secondary schools

Great St Mary's is an ideal base for a visit focused on History and Religious Education.

Secondary school students particularly enjoy the chance to see their city from above by climbing our tower!

We offer a range of visits for secondary school students focusing on History and RE.  Our sessions complement the National Curriculum and often tie in well with topics studied at both GCSE and A- Level.  We also offer tours, tower climbs and self guided visits.  

We can offer sessions for just one class or offer a carousel of activities to accommodate larger groups or an entire year group.  We are happy to liaise with local museums to arrange a half- day or full day of activities for you in the historic centre of Cambridge.  Our visits are perfect for a History or RE specific session, or for a cross curricular Humanities visit.

Great St Mary’s Revealed Tour

On this tour students will explore the church with the Education Officer finding out about its interesting history, fascinating features and the stories behind them. Find out why the church is the official centre of Cambridge and why the bells sound so familiar; discover why there are two organs and why the pulpit can move; examine the font and the lectern for clues to their purpose; hear about the strange stories of the church; stand in the same spot as Queen Elizabeth I and much more!

Tower Climb

Find out about the fascinating history of the tower and its famous bells. Climb the 123 spiral steps to the top to experience a bird’s eye view of Cambridge from the air.


We have a great range of activities to help students explore this Christian place of worship and to build their Christian Understanding.

God’s House Tour: Explore the church with the Education Officer in this RE focused tour. Looking at the font, lectern, altar, pulpit, chapel, organ and pews as well as other features, we will discover how the space of the church is connected to Christian beliefs and what makes Great St Mary’s special.

Scripture and Space: Students explore why Church is an important place for Christians.  They look at key Christian beliefs and how they are reflected in the sacred space of the church.  Students then link these beliefs to passages from scripture.

I– Spy: Signs, Symbols & Space: Look, explore and find out more… Students use our I Spy Pack to explore the church independently or in small groups. They will look closely for signs and symbols and examine the church space for evidence of Christian beliefs and practices. Packs include an I Spy Guide, a magnifying glass and binoculars. (Suitable for KS3)

ExploRE Tour: In this RE focused interactive tour, students discover the meaning behind the features in the church. Students will discover God’s house with a journey through the ‘big story’ of the Bible. We will explore the Creation and the Fall, the Incarnation, Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Trinity, baptism, worship and prayer and link them to the features and space of the church.

Baptism and Belonging: Find out more about the Christian practice of Baptism using objects, role play and scripture. (Suitable for KS3-4 adapted for your key stage)

Discover the Eucharist: Why do Christians have a sip of wine and a taste of bread on a Sunday?  This session explores the sacrament of the Eucharist and its origins in the Bible.  Student will re-enact the Last Supper and explore the spiritual significance of Christ’s Sacrifice.  There is an opportunity to roleplay Holy Communion using clerical vestments and Eucharistic vessels. (Suitable for KS3-5 adapted for your key stage)


Great St Mary’s is the perfect Cambridge venue for the study of medieval, Tudor and Reformation history.  With revolting peasants burning books, generous donations from both sides of the Wars of the Roses, a famous visit from Queen Elizabeth I herself, and a Reformation theologian burnt at the stake after his death, the overarching national themes of historical study link with local realities here in Cambridge.

Medieval Mayhem: In this session, students will find out about the medieval origins of the University Church and the tensions this caused between Town and Gown.  They will discover the dramatic events of the Peasant’s Revolt here in Cambridge when local people dramatically turned against the University and the teenage King Richard II.  Students will also explore the church and compare what it would have looked like in medieval times to how it looks today.  

The Reformation Religious Rollercoaster & the Remarkable Tale of Bucer’s Body: During this session, students will discover the impact of the Reformation Religious Rollercoaster upon the life and fabric of Great St Mary’s.  Students will explore the church to find out what the medieval church would have looked like pre Reformation and reflect on what that tells us about their beliefs.  We will then examine how the church adapted with the national changes in religion during the Tudor period.  We will then bring the ups and downs of the Reformation to life by uncovering the remarkable story of the theologian Martin Bucer.  Bucer was buried in the church as a celebrated Protestant theologian under Edward VI, was dug up again as a heretic by the Roman Catholic Mary I -who burnt his bones and books at the stake in the market- and who was finally returned to the church under Elizabeth I.  This is a perfect case study to examine historical significance.

Bloody Mary or Mary Misunderstood?: In this session, we will be putting Queen Mary I’s reputation on trial.  Does she deserve her infamous nickname of Bloody Mary or not? Has she been misunderstood?  Was she any bloodier than any other monarchs of her time?  We will examine the source and credibility of Mary’s ‘bloody’ reputation and go on an evidence hunt enabling the students to decide for themselves.  During the session, students will hear stories particular to Cambridge and Great St Mary’s such as the announcement of the accession of Lady Jane Grey as Queen in Cambridge Market Square; the burnings of Bishops Latimer and Ridley commemorated in our Saints & Scholars window; the tale of the burning of the Babraham Priest and the curious tale of Martin Bucer- the man who died twice!  After reflecting on the evidence, students will then judge whether Mary deserves her ‘bloody’ reputation.  ).

Curious Cures- Medicine in the Middle Ages:   Take a trip to Dr Butler’s surgery; but be warned, the treatments may be a little bit out of the ordinary! In this interactive workshop, students will get to meet Dr. Butler, a fellow of Clare College and physician under Elizabeth I and to King James I.  Come with your ailments and hear all about the curious cures and traumatic treatments that made him so famous.  Help Dr. Butler make his unusual cures including the famous Dr Butler’s Purging Ale and go on a treatment hunt to solve the problems of his patients.  An excellent way to find out more about medicine and cures in the Middle Ages.

Reformation People, Portraits and Propaganda: The challenge against church authority launched by Martin Luther in 1517 caused religious, social and political change across 16th and 17th Century Europe.   In this session we will explore the roots of the Reformation through a focus on Pope Leo X and Martin Luther.  We will explore how these Reformation personalities were portrayed by their enemies and reflect on how this has influenced how we remember them.  We will also discover how the printing press’ impact was the 16th Century equivalent of today’s social media and how it helped Luther’s ideas to ‘go viral’.  During the session we will examine images and portraits from the 16th Century and beyond and make our own propaganda portraits of these early modern heroes- and villains!

First World War Stories- the Fallen of Great St Mary’s: In 1922, the grieving families of Great St Mary’s installed the East Window in  the St Andrew’s Chapel in memory to those who died in the First World War.  In this interactive session, the children will hear the personal stories of the fallen men of Great St Mary’s.  We look at why men were so keen to go to war and discover the reality of what the war was actually like once they had signed up.  Stories include that of James Cunningham, the vicar’s son; Christopher Cooke, the schoolboy sailor aged 14, who survived the sinking of his cruiser ship in just his pyjama bottoms; Christopher Armstrong, the star of the sportsman’s Battalion and Captain Charles Hamilton Sorley, soldier and poet. 

Cambridge Tudor Walking Trail: This self-led walk around Cambridge introduces students to the big religious cotudor trail (1024x706)nflicts of the Reformation and the kings and queens who left their mark on Cambridge. It also touches on the differences between rich and poor in Tudor England.  The trail comes with a student worksheet and teacher pack with a map, explanatory notes and accompanying visual aids.  The trail starts at Great St Mary’s and ends on Jesus Green- the perfect place for a picnic lunch. 

Market Square Stories: This self led activity allows students to explore Cambridge market square and discover the stories from its past.  Using the Market Square Stories booklet students are led around the market discovering its fascinating history.  Who was Thomas Hobson and what was Hobson’s choice?  What are the market square’s burning secrets?  Discover the surprising story of the slimy Cambridge Book Fish and much more.

Market Square Time Traveller Trail: On this self-led trail students explore Cambridge Market Square with the aid of a map and old photographs.  They will travel back in time by comparing what market square locations were like in the past to how they are now and thinking about why things have changed.  Discussion points include changes in transport, women’s equality, communication, Cambridge’s identity and the history of the water fountains.  This is an excellent way for students to practice their map skills and to discuss change through time in Cambridge.

Cambridge Chronology: This setimeline sniplf-led activity will enhance your students’ chronological understanding with our timeline challenge.  Students explore over 800 years of Cambridge history by using our interactive touchscreens and display boards. Encountering beautiful historic images, they review Cambridge history from 1205 to the present by filling the gaps on their own timeline.

King’s College Chapel

The breath-taking stained glass and soaring stonework of King’s College Chapel is something that everyone growing up in or around Cambridge should see! We offer joint visits with Kings and these can tailored to fit your group size.