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Thursday, 28 April 2016

St Mary's Church, Burgh St Peter

 This little church is reached down a seemingly never ending country lane, near the marshes and close to the river Waveney, about a mile from the village.
I was surprised to find the church is dedicated to St Mary and not to St Peter..
            My first sight of the church caused me some amazement because of it’s was not what I was expecting to see. It resembles a Middle Eastern folly rather than the more traditional church tower I am used to.. It was erected in stages at different times in the C18/C19 in the manner of  children’s building bricks, tapering toward the top..

 I was intrigued……
            …On researching more about the church, it appears a family by the name of Boycott were wealthy landowners in the area from the early 1700’s and were rectors and patrons of  St Mary’s then, and for the following two hundred years... It was Samuel Boycott who was rector here from 1764-1795 who in 1793 began the building of this diminishing four stage construction, on top of an early C16 flint and patterned brick base… This first stage was to become the family vault for many subsequent Boycott family members. The rest of the tower is thought to be in the style of a church that Samuel’s son John saw when abroad on his ‘Grand Tour’.
The second stage is now used as a vestry, but the higher stages are unused…
Sadly to my eye it looks rather incongruous butted up against a medieval nave and chancel.

The interior of the church although simple, is very pleasing to the eye.
The font has an octagonal bowl and dates from around the early C16

The early C19 pulpit is unusual as it is covered in memorial plaques  to the Boycott Rectors and other family members – something I’ve not seen in any other church.

Behind the pulpit part of the old Rood Screen stairs are still in evidence, but the present Rood Screen is comparatively modern, having been erected as a memorial to the Rev. Leeding, who was Rector here in the early C20.

                    On the south wall of the chancel the C14 piscina and sedilla remain in situ.

The south porch originally built in the C15 was later heightened, and the C13 South and North church doors have undergone much restoration work over the centuries.

The interior of St Mary's


the reredos >>


There is a fine scratch/mass dial on the outside wall

Just beyond the East window in the churchyard lies the grave of Charles Cunningham Boycott (1832-1897)…** it was his involvement in the Irish troubles in the mid C19 that resulted in the word ‘boycott’ being introduced into the English language..(source..’The Brief History of St Mary’s Church’                               
                                                The graves of some of the Boycott family
This stone is situated by the West tower

After leaving the church and driving back toward the village, I stopped to take a look back to where the church was just visible standing alone in splendid isolation.
It made me wonder what this area would be like on a damp day when the surrounding marshes encompass the church and it's graveyard in a swirling mist....maybe a little unnerving.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

St Andrew's church, Wissett

This charming church has been a place of worship for almost a thousand years. It was in a ruinous state by the early C19 and was restored and brought back to life by the Hartopp family who were local Lords of the Manor at that time.

The C15 south porch has it’s original roof and shelters the C12 Norman South doorway which has amusing smiling faces carved around it’s arch.

Scratch dials are evident on both sides of the doorway uprights

.A holy water stoup is inside the church by the South door, .

A pleasing font-possibly C15- is at the West end of the church, it has angels carrying shields on it’s bowl and woodwoses (wild men) and lions around it’s stem

At the base of the West tower is a Tudor door which leads up to the belfry, and either side of the tower arch hangs Decalogue panels. 

A coat of Arms for George 111 hangs on the West end of the South wall

I was curious about the odd stone on which the old bier now appears a heating appliance once stood here and was used to warm the church for Sunday services.  

There used to be box pews in the nave but these were replaced by bench seats in the early C20 – most of these bench ends have old -  although a few of them have more recent poppy-head ends to them..

The C15 nave windows are perpendicular in style and were installed at the time the nave was enlarged…three of the windows contain fragments of medieval glass

At the East end of the nave clues remain which tell us that in medieval times another altar and piscina stood here, and on the North wall opposite is a doorway which led up some stone stairs to the rood loft, so evidently a rood screen used to be here, which would have separated the chancel from the nave….Strangely the rood loft door is set higher from the floor than usually found, maybe this has something to do with the height of the church floor level at various times through the centuries.

 The C15 chancel arch pillars have old graffiti scratched on them.   >>

Since 1973 the rood in this church has been represented by a large hanging straw cross, which certainly looks in keeping with a church set amidst an agricultural community

In the chancel floor is a surviving brass for Elizabeth Blomfield who died in 1638 aged 19 years.

In 2009 a polishing stone and a ladies C16 shoe were found during the restoration work on the 60’ high tower ….A long held story says that concealing a shoe in a church wards off evil spirits and brings good fortune to all who worship there. .
The pulpit and priest’s desk are C17 and probably started out as a double decker pulpit.
     In 1968 the church was flooded to about two feet deep, as can be seen by the tide mark on some of the pew ends

There is an Angel carved on each of the wooden  finials which surround the Altar >>

My favourite item in this church is the modern statue of St Andrew sculptured in 2006 by
Peter Eugene Ball. It stands in a large niche near a window by the chancel arch. This eye catching statue is a beautiful and meaningful depiction of St Andrew the fisherman

Set into the nave aisle floor is a diamond shaped tablet for the two tiny babies of the Rev Edward Cornish Wells who both died when aged four months of age

Two of the tombstones in the graveyard have a spikes on their lids, this was protection against grave robbers.

This is a well loved and cared for church which reaches out in welcome to all who visit here.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

The church of St Peter at Westleton, Suffolk

The last time I came to this church it was pouring with rain, but on this occasion the sun was shining, so I was able to take a good look around it’s large atmospheric churchyard.
The church could easily be missed by passers-by, as it is hidden up a slope behind a tall hedge away from the road.... One of the things first noticed about this church is it's lack of a tower. After the original collapsed in the 1700's it was never replaced but a bell-cote was installed in it's stead.
The interior is spacious, built in 1340 after Westleton prospered due to the great storm of 1286 which caused the demise of the nearby coastal town of Dunwich. Sadly the Black Death of 1349 destroyed trade within this area, and Westleton village once again was reduced in size, but retained it’s large church.
            Entry is via the simple South porch and the inside of St Peter’s is plain but light and airy. With it’s white-washed walls and barrel-vaulted ceiling it gives off an air of simplicity.
There was restoration here both in 1857 and again in 1891, in fact it is still ongoing to this day…. A new West gallery has been built with the lovely C15 font standing below. The font if of the familiar East Anglia type which displays Angels with shields on the panels of it’s bowl.

The pulpit is C19 as is the pews in the nave, these have low doors to keep out the draught  and have Gothic style numbers on their doors, this is reminiscent of the days when pews were rented and seating allocated to parishioners.

The oak lectern is from 1891
There is a nice 1936 prayer desk which has two charming figures carved on it’s finials – one represents a sower of seed and the other of a fisherman
Inserted in the South wall of the chancel is a lovely piscina and sedilia set below a range of splendid arches…there’s also another piscina set in the South wall of the nave
                                   The East window is very large and contains clear glass

 Many of the C17 and C18 ledger-stones and wall tablets found in the chancel are for the wealthy Woods family who over the years resided at Westleton Grange

Looking round the church I noticed that the C14 North doorway had been blocked up

  Some interesting headstones grace the churchyard, including a nice one for a couple who had been missionaries in Palestine, and there’s two smart iron headstones – an unusual type for the early C19

The North side of the churchyard is now given over as a conservation area

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Church of St Matthias, Thorpe-next-Haddiscoe. Norfolk

This small  C11 round towered flint built church is in a remote Norfolk hamlet. It sits in dominance overlooking the marshes, with only a neighbouring farm for company. It’s situation is idyllic, set amidst it’s small pleasant churchyard surrounded by trees.
The nave of the church has a thatched roof. It’s round tower is mostly Saxon, with the upper part added at later dates.
The nave is very small but has a warm cosy feel to it - of course this could be attributed to the heating being on in the church on the day I visited. I was left wondering if it had been left turned on by accident or if some meeting was being held there later in the day…

The C13 late Norman font of purbeck marble is large and square and very plain – nothing here for the late medieval puritans to deface.

The unimposing chancel was rebuilt in red brick in 1836/38, and has a roof of slate,

.,there is a wall monument placed on its north wall to Thomas London who died in 1661 at the age of twenty one. He had once been a resident of Thorpe Hall.

Curiously there’s a ledger stone in the aisle of the nave which has a tiny brass on it, but sadly shows no name. I wonder who lies beneath…..

One thing I found curious in the church is the double arched alcove set into the west wall upon entry into the nave through the South porch door. If this had been in the chancel I would have assumed it was used as a piscina (for washing the Holy Communion vessels) but on reflection as the font stands close by, it was possibly used as an aumbry for holding the Holy oils and Baptism water...I can't recall seeing anything like this placed in a similar position elsewhere.

Rough steps cut into the north wall of the nave can still be seen, they once gave access to the rood loft …. while on the south wall there’s a blocked arch behind where the pulpit stands, this tells us there once used to be an additional chapel here before any reconstruction of the church.

There is a nice welcoming South porch 

..and a small Norman North door which is now blocked. >>

In the churchyard there are quite a few graves that belong to generations of the same family…a long line of history.......

.....and a grave which would have been a deterrent to would-be grave robbers of the C19, >>

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Shadingfield, St John the Baptist

Car parking for the church has to be across the other side of the road, as St John’s stands on high ground above a sharp bend in the road.
The church’s C14 tower which has a castellated parapet has had a C19 red brick patch worked into it, where essential restoration work was needed, other restoration work to the tower took place in 1983.

An early C16 red brick South porch was added, which has a rather grand fa├žade for it’s size. This had to be restored in 2001.

Both the church doorways look Norman yet have the early English pointed top to the arch, which means they could be from the transitional time of Norman to Gothic architecture. The North doorway has dogtooth decoration around it’s arch which probably indicates this was probably meant originally as the main entrance, as the South doorway was left plain.
This church has already undergone much restoration, and I would think the next thing to be addressed must be the outer skin of the building, as this needs attention (see first picture)   
..The church interior is one large space with no arch to divide the nave from the chancel, but there’s evidence that there used to be one here as there’s two pairs of corbel head supports on the walls where a rood screen would have been.
..To the West of the North door inside the church there is a well worn raised burial slab, which is believed to be C13 (possibly belonging to an early priest)
..All the nave benches have poppy head ends, except for two which have demi-figures of a man (priest?) on them

The late C15 octagonal font is carved with Tudor roses and shields

In the NW wall behind the font is a wedged shaped banner stave locker…these are seen more often in  Suffolk churches than anywhere else.
The Royal Arms of Charles ll hangs on the South wall of the nave.

Traces of medieval wall paintings were uncovered and restored in 1992 >

The chancel was extensively restored in 1841 but managed to retain it’s C13 slit  window in it’s North wall which now contains Victorian stained glass…

..There's also a nice early English lancet window which contains mid C19 memorial glass  >

There are several interesting brasses and memorials to be seen in the chancel, these are mainly for the Cuddon family who lived at Shadingfield Hall from C13-C18

An altar cloth edged with hand made lace was given to the church by the wife of William Cuddon on Christmas Day 1632. It is now is the safe keeping of a museum.

..The C19 East window is simple but delightful, it’s border is made from a mixture of stained glass saved from the previous three centuries. It is flanked by two stone Decalogue panels.

A C13 piscina and a dropped-sill sedilia are let into the South wall of the Sanctuary.

I’m told this  Bishop’s chair dates from the C17

There’s also a C17 chest with an equally old bible sitting upon it.

 Some badly neglected graves in the churchyard include a family vault for the Scott family who resided at Shadingfield Hall in the mid C19

   I found many headstones belonging to members of the same Shadingfield families – a particular one of interest was for the family of James and Emma Bird and their 16 children, evidently a descendant had erected this so that all the family could be remembered together.

 ..A  Celtic Cross stands on the South side of the churchyard and acts as a memorial for paying pay respect to the fallen in the Great war of 1914-1918.