The site occupied by the church on the corner of Hills Road and the new road which was to become known as St Paul’s Road was sold by Caius College in 1839 to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and two years later the church of St Paul’s was built. The new church was a source of considerable embarrassment at the time, its “debased perpendicular style” provoking a vicious attack from the newly formed Cambridge Camden Society.
St Paul’s was built to the design of Ambrose Poynter who was also responsible for two other Cambridge churches: Christ Church (1839) and St Andrew the Great (1842-3). At this time, the Cambridge Camden Society had just been established with A W Pugin as one of its founder members to oppose the resurgence of classicism in church design and to re-establish the “true principles of Gothic architecture” as expounded by Pugin. In short, they proposed to attack anything that did not conform in style and detailing to the middle-pointed period of the late fourteenth century.
St Paul’s church, basically a loose interpretation of St Mary the Great in red brick, was an easy target for the newly formed society. In the first edition of their magazine, "The Ecclesiologist", (November 1841) the church came under searing attack in an article entitled “New Churches”.