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Saturday, 5 August 2017

Hedenham, St Peter's church

St Peter's church, Hedenham

This church stands in a pleasant village, with it’s path rising up to the church door….interesting and perhaps a little disconcerting are the graveyard foot stones which pave the last few yards of this path.
                        Before I went inside the church I took a wander around the outside.




The North wall of the nave has three single C13 lancet windows

The chancel  appears to have been carefully restored and it’s East window has lovely tracery.
The South wall windows are of the perpendicular style, with the West tower and porch being similar. The nave buttresses are gabled and have trefoils beneath the gable ends.  A rood staircase projection is visible from the South side and the tower parapet has stepped battlements.  

Returning back to the South side of the church I found a large memorial tablet on the outer chancel wall for Arthur Jenney who died in 1742….sadly this tablet is badly weathered so I know nothing more about this gentleman..

While in the churchyard I found a row of large flat tombstones belonging to the Carr Family, they each have the family coat of arms on them…I found this unusual as most notable families have a large square family plot for their loved ones to rest in.
Entry into the church is through a late C14 porch door with a sundial above....I have to say this is one of the most friendliest and welcoming churches I've ever visited. Two ladies were inside, one was arranging fresh flowers around the church while the other was busy with a feather duster keeping everything looking pristine. We were offered cups of tea by these ladies who genuinely seemed pleased to talk to us.
The bright airy nave contains a typical C14 font at the West end with it’s carved decoration of roses and shields….There is evidence that this end of the nave is now used for Sunday School purposes
Turning and facing East, one is struck by how colourful the chancel arch and chancel are...the chancel itself seemed dark in comparison to the nave  which has mainly clear glass windows, while the chancel windows are filled with vibrant coloured C19 stained glass.

Sometimes C19 restorations weren't very successful,but this church seems to have embraced it...Besides the painting around the chancel arch, there is similar painting on the walls around the chancel windows. This gives visitors an insight into how medieval churches would have looked.

One doesn’t usually see churches painted in this way now, and personally I found the extravagance of the Victorian Gothic style (c1860) a little overwhelming, although nicely done 



 The restored sedilia in the chancel looks rather splendid        



There are many large impressive wall tablets which adorn the church walls, especially in the chancel where centuries of the respected Bedingfield family are remembered, including one for Philip Bedingfield who died in 1628 - they were the local Lords of the Manor
Also in the chancel are ledger stones to the Bedingfield family and a lovely chalice brass on the stone of Rev Richard Greene who died in 1502…Other memorial tablets in the church are mainly for the Garneys family.

I found the visit to this church fascinating, there is a calm welcoming light atmosphere in the nave with it’s traditional oak benches, in contrast to the busy chancel.
 Grave foot stones which are being used as a pathway up to the church >>

This is a well loved and happy church which has successfully incorporated the new(ish) amongst the old.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

St Edmund's church, Fritton


This is a charming early medieval reed thatched church, which until boundary changes in 1974 resided in Suffolk, but now Norfolk boasts it belongs to them.

…It’s in a delightful setting down a lane near Fritton Lake on the east Suffolk/Norfolk border.


I've visited this church on numerous occasions but this was the first time I'd been without getting wet, thankfully on this particular day we had glorious sunshine. 
As with many East Anglian churches St Edmunds has a round tower which is of  Saxon origin with the Norman Apse built in the C11 and the Chancel and Nave added in the C13 …The width of the church Nave being extended by approx. 11 feet Southwards in the C14, this gives the inside of the church a lop-sided look, as the chancel is now on the North side of the nave instead of in the middle of the church as originally intended.

 I am not always enamoured by some restoration work done in medieval churches, but this is an exception, as the restoration work here was so sympathetically done, and gives us an insight to how the church interior would have looked centuries ago with all it’s vibrant wall painting.    One has to step down from the nave into the tiny chancel, which is wonderfully restored and seemed a magical place to enter. The East window of this Apsidal chancel is really three separate small Norman slit windows…the depth of these window recesses demonstrates how thick the walls of the original church was. The red scroll wall painting around the entire East window probably dates from C12… Two other stained glass windows are on either side of the chancel, where the workmen have left us a view on the ceiling above of some of the restoration work which has been undertaken.

A small set of medieval choir stalls fit neatly into the chancel near the C13 piscina.


The original rood screen - now restored dates from the middle C14 and is a wonderful doorway into this medieval chancel.

In the Nave a C17 three decker pulpit complete with clerk’s desk and reading desk stand unusually alongside each other. This stands where I think the original Altar must have stood before the nave was widened, as there is a piscina close by.



Two large C14 wall paintings, one of St Christopher and the other of St John the Baptist were uncovered during the restoration work.


The Norman style font is probably from the C19

The stone cross which stands on the Eastern gable of the church is a C12 "Rosa Crux"


On the outside of the South wall of the apsidal chancel can be seen a small wooden hatch to a small room under the eaves, it is known as the 'smugglers loft', where it is believed smugglers used to store their contraband.
This is a church which has survived through the turmoil of the last one thousand years, and hopefully will remain for a very long time in the future.  It is a truly delightful church to visit.



Thursday, 27 July 2017

Herringfleet Church of St Margaret 2

This is a lovely little medieval church on the Suffolk/Norfolk border which has a very peaceful interior.

Before the rape of the monasteries by the Tudors, Herringfleet  was governed by nearby St Olave’s Priory.

The round tower is the oldest surviving part of the medieval church. It was begun in 980AD - in Anglo Saxon times. A second section was added to it about a century later – probably at the same time the chancel and the church's south doorway were built. The roof of the nave was re-thatched in the 1890's, although the chancel roof was tiled

The tower was originally used either as a lookout tower, or more likely as somewhere to store armoury
                                              Norman south doorway >
It is thought the south porch was added in the mid C19 when the church was restored.

This restoration defines the class system between masters and peasants in those days.
 The pews with half doors placed in the chancel were for the wealthy landowners and are quite elaborate with poppy head carvings, 
while those set at the back of the nave of the church are very plain and were for the use of the peasants.


<Lamp holder in the nave



 Lord of the manor of Herringfleet at that time and main benefactor for this C19 restoration of the church was John Francis Leathes. There are many memorials in the church for members of the Leathes family.

The East window is made up of stained glass from the late C14 to early C18, and was thought to be imported from Germany, although some of the stained glass in the church probably came from the nearby ruined Priory of St Olaves which was destroyed in Tudor times. The amount of recovered stained glass in the church is very impressive.

There remains a small medieval slit window in the chancel north wall

The font was gifted to St Margaret’s church in the mid C19 by Countess des Aubiers.

Of the two (originally three) remaining bells only the treble bell dating from 1837 is now fit for use.

View from the west gallery- many of the memorials in the church are on the chancel walls




I found some unusual gravestones in the churchyard, one large section contained many members of the Leathes family, all buried in separate graves....this is a particular poignant one to the right. 







<   Leathes family graves which take up a large section of the churchyard.

This is a delightful church to visit and explore, I'll certainly be making another return visit.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Holy Trinity, Blythburgh update

 Holy Trinity, Blythburgh.

This is a church brought back to life from it’s ruinous state. 
The church of Holy Trinity was built in 1412 for the high class rituals of the Catholic church. Originally everything inside of the church would have been brightly painted – today we would have called it garish with  it’s boldness... After the dissolution of the nearby monastery in 1538 the church was beset by mounting problems
… In 1577 during a great storm lightning struck the church spire which sent it crashing down through the roof damaging the font and killing both a man and and a young boy. There’s a superstition that this was the work of the devil in the guise of a large black dog and that it is the dog's claws which made the scorch marks that can be seen down the inner North door.
...In 1644 the church was victim to the Puritan leanings of that time and was stripped of most of it’s fine medieval trappings, even the brass memorial plaques belonging to the tomb slabs in the floor of the Nave were taken up and disposed of....Because of the extreme poverty of the rural community,  and their attendance at the small primitive Methodist chapel, the Church was left to decline… It wasn’t until 1881 that any restoration of Holy Trinity church began to take shape, and it was three years before they were able to open the church to a congregation. 
On approaching the church there are three things of note on the outer wall (a) a Lombardic inscription set into the wall (b) what looks like a medieval font which stands by the porch door and was used as a stoup for holy water, and (c) a modern statuette by Nicholas Mynheer of the Holy Trinity placed in  the niche over the porch door.
The South side of the church is more resplendent than the North side, as it displays  stone grotesques and lion’s heads for all to see....The door on the North side of the church. has a lion and a griffon headstop on either side of the door archway.
On entering inside the church one can immediately see what a majestic building this must have once been. It is spacious with a high ceiling and stone columns with carved heads on on the corbels dividing the nave from the side aisles.  
 There is a row of eighteen clerestory windows along each side of the church which lets light shine in through their plain glass displaying  the ceiling demi angels with arms outstretched in their (albeit now faded) glory.  One of these demi angels is now displayed over the South entrance door, showing how beautiful and vibrant they would have looked originally.   
The pew ends some from the C15 have poppyhead carvings on them depicting the seven deadly sins and the four seasons..
Very little remains of the medieval stained glass from the lower storey of windows in the church, these have mostly been replaced by plain glass.
 Passing through the vaulted porch into the nave there is a flight of circular stone steps on the left which lead up to the Priest’s Room, which is now used for prayer and contemplation. A spy hole in there gives the occupant a good view of one of the alters below.
Facing the porch door is the C15 seventh sacrament octagonal font- originally this would have had lovely carving on it, but this was stripped away in the 1540’s The font stands at the west end of the church looking down the long nave toward the rood screen, chancel and altar…
Just in front of the rood screen stands the beautifully carved 17th century pulpit with flower designs on it's panels.
To the left of the chancel and altar is the chantry chapel dedicated to John Hopton who was Lord of the manor - he died in 1478, his elaborate tomb stands between the chantry chapel  and the chancel
 Inside the chancel are the wonderfully old choir pews with their carvings of the Apostles and Saints
 Some graffiti from 1665 can be seen on one of the choir stalls, it was done by a young Swedish boy who's father had come over from the Lowlands to help East Anglia with it's drainage. 

There are two niches in the stone walls – the one near the organ contains one of the few remaining working*Jack’o the Clock* figures dating from 1682…The other niche holds a modern carving of Virgin and Child by Peter Eugene Bell.

Let into the North wall of the Hopton chapel is the rood staircase which these days lead to nowhere as the rood has long gone.

There's also an alms box dating from 1473
 Tethering rings are set into the pillars by the Great North door. One assumes these were for congregations to tether their waiting horses while they were attending service.
It’s good to see restoration work on Holy Trinity continuing…It would be almost unthinkable  to lose one of our most loveliest of churches . 
There is so much to record about this church, that this is just a fraction of it's history.

With the grace of God this church will still be standing for many more years, for our descendants to visit and worship.