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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.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

It had been a few years since I last visited St Mary’s Church it was nice to familiarise myself with it once again. Hardly anything had changed, although I found two interesting things which I'd overlooked previously.
     On approaching the church through the modern wooden thatched lych-gate you may be forgiven for wrongly thinking this church looks incomplete, as it has no high tower but a clapboard belfry in stead.… but the church has quite a turbulent history.
During the Reformation many of it’s treasures were looted or destroyed, and a century later under the Puritan cleansing, the medieval glass and the rood screen were destroyed.
The original tower was struck by lightning in the C18 and was later replaced by this clapboard belfry which now houses just one bell…although I believe at one time there might have been three bells.
The poor church even had it’s East end blown out during the severe East Anglia gales in 1987!
 St Mary’s is idyllically situated in a small scattered village and can be found down a warren of country lanes.(not an easy place to find for a stranger to the area) It is still in use to this day, mainly due to it’s generous benefactors past and present.

The porch door is Norman and the inner roof is of the arched brace and collar design from the 1400’s.

The font is C15 and octagonal in style. It looks well preserved, but it may have been restored in the 1870’s when it’s cover was added.

The Victorian craftsmen made a wonderfully sympathetic job of bringing the church back to life with their restoration of the church. The beautiful reredos with paintings of eight saints on a gold background is a fine example of their work…
Above the reredos and placed on either side of the Altar are two lovely square pictures, one of a sower and the other of a reaper.

In front of the chancel stands a Stuart  pulpit which was restored by these same Victorian workmen
                             Memorial stone placed in front of the Alter >>

 The medieval piscina for washing the holy vessels, and the sedilla are still in situ.

     Set  into a perpendicular window in the church is a more recent circular piece of stained glass art. This was commissioned to celebrate the new millenium and is  by Rachel Thomas, it depicts a  mother and child surrounded by contemporary village life.
The older, mainly Victorian stained glass windows are of the more traditional style found in a church.  The remnants of the Victorian stained glass from the East window, were salvaged when the East End of the church blew down in 1987  and these have been reset  into the new East window.
    On the South side of St Mary’s there's a Norman Priest’s door let into the chancel wall, with the trace of a scratch dial in the wall near it. There’s also a blocked Norman door on the Northern side of the church.
     The church is surrounded by a large churchyard, where on the last day I visited here it must have been in Springtime as there were swathes of beautiful tiny blue flowers blooming in abundance.... This time it's later in the year and these flowers have died  and I was able to see more of the churchyard, including it's surrounding brick wall. ...A local lady who's family had lived in the area for generations told me a very sad tale concerning the cross built into the North wall of the church near the lych-gate. It appears that in the C18 a teenage girl found herself pregnant and rather than bring shame on her family she killed herself, consequently she wasn't allowed to be buried in consecrated ground, so when the church wall was built the cross was incorporated as a remembrance to this young girl.

This church although not having the prettiest exterior, was certainly a delight to revisit.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Flixton church of St Mary

This church dedicated to St Mary stands on a hillock in a wooded area looking down unnoticed from the village below

The first thing which catches the eye is the unusual top to it’s tower, this was built in the mid C19  - the original tower had fallen down in the 1830s.
When I first came here last year there were workmen busy repairing the roof, so it was nice on my return to witness what a splendid job had been done in incorporating the new wood into the origin beams inside.

The nave is light and airy due to the large clear perpendicular windows, in sharp contrast to the darkness of the neo-Norman chancel which has stained glass in it’s windows 

I liked this large candle holder in the chancel

The imposing large square font at the West end is a replica of a Norman style

The interior is full of family memorials to two families – the Tasburgh family who after the reformation owned Flixton Hall including the church, but as they were of the Roman Catholic faith it’s doubtful if they ever worshipped here, and this is probably the reason why the church was left to fall into ruins.  After the Tasburgh family died out it went into the hands of the Adair family who were responsible for rebuilding the church in the mid C19 century... Lord Waveney even had a small octagonal chapel added on in 1902 at the West end of the North aisle, he dedicated this to his wife Theodosia Adair (Lady Waveney) and commissioned a life size statue of her to stand in there.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Heckingham St Gregory's church

This early medieval thatched roof church is contemporary with it’s more well known neighbour St Margaret’s in Hales.
This plain and a simple church is now redundant and under the care of the Church Conservation Trust…..It is one of the beast examples of a Norman country church in East Anglia. .Set down a narrow secluded stony lane, it could very easily be passed by without anyone noticing it. It stands aloof and proud on a small hillock, above it’s makeshift car parking area.
The tower which began as round was later heightened in an octagonal mode.

 The South side of the church boasts a very fine Norman doorway, It’s beauty is breath-taking!..It has very fine elaborate patterned carvings and the four shafts on either side have decorated capitals…It is quite over powering inside this small C15 porch.

The blocked up Norman door on the North side of the church is extremely plain by comparison.

The nave with it’s steep arch braced roof exudes a feeling of tranquillity,  and this church has one of the few remaining early medieval apsidal chancels. The shape of these chancels went out of fashion quite quickly when the straight sided walled chancels came into favour.

The sturdy square Norman font is supported on a central stem and four corner shafts
                                                               Details of Font >>

We can still see the recess in the SE corner of the nave where stairs to the rood screen used to be.

A charming stained glass window adorns the central East window

I found two interesting ledger stones, to  Mary Crow d.1666 and Mary Crowe d 1659 both daughters of John and Elizabeth Crowe…it was quite usual for parents in those days to name a subsequent child after one that had previously died. (notice the letter *e* has been missed from the surname on one of the stones).  Stones to other members of the Crowe family are in the church.

An old bier dated 1903 is standing at the rear of the church
I was surprised not to find any early wall paintings, I was expecting to see the inner walls similar to the ones in the neighbouring church of St Margaret in Hales. Nevertheless the interior of this church is quite charming

 On the day I visited this lovely church it was disappointing to see the churchyard so massively overgrown, some of it was shoulder high and too difficult to walk round. 

 I do hope someone tends to it soon.