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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Church of St Edmund King and Martyr, Southwold

No superlatives I use can do justice to this wonderful church which is situated in the middle of the town.
I think I should start with it's grand two-storey South porch, which was the last part of the church to be built.

It has chequerboard work on it's East and West walls, and over the porch door is a niche which holds a statuette of St Edmund.

The North doorway is just as impressive, without a porch.

The interior of this large church is breathtaking.

The medieval font at the West end of the nave is of the seven sacrament design , and has a magnificent C20 cover.

At the back of the nave is the statue of "Southwold Jack" which originally used to have a clock mechanism, and Jack would strike a bell every quarter of the hour...Although the clock workings have long disappeared, the statue still comes to life at the beginning of services by bringing his sword down to strike a bell. There is a similar statue in nearby Blithburgh church.

The interior of the church is magnificent. I love all the clerestory windows.

The C15 rood screen is truly splendid, it stretches right across the full width of the church. On close inspection I wondered if  it's panels had been painted by more than one person, as the quality of the gessowork differs on  them.

Much of the later restoration to this church happened in the early C20 which included making the pulpit and lectern rather too extravagant for my particular taste, but no doubt there are many people who enjoy this lavish style.

The chancel has a gloriously painted blue spangled ceiling with surrounding angels

The stained glass East window and reredos, are a joy to behold

...and there's a medieval sedilia and piscina set into the chancel South wall.

A very fine ceremonial cross which was a gift from Emporer Haile Selassie stands by the steps up to the altar.

I noticed a lot of C16 graffiti on the ancient benches in the chancel.
The old misericorde stalls are superb with lovely head carvings on each of the armrests...and I really liked the priests chair and desk

The organ standing up high is very ornate, it has angels, some blowing trumpets and others holding shields on it's facade - this was installed in the chancel in 1889

There's a calm serene atmosphere in the Lady Chapel, where it has been suggested the bosses overhead may represent Mary Tudor and her 2nd husband Charles Brandon, Earl of Suffolk. but no-one has found proof of this.

There is so much to see in this glorious welcoming house of God, that a repeat visit will be necessary. ...The churchyard alone is worth a second visit.

Friday, 3 October 2014

St James's church Dunwich

There’s nothing to distinguish this country church from many others, it’s just the fact that it’s connected to so much history that makes it more interesting than most.
Dunwich was a thriving early medieval port and used to cover about a square mile to the East of the present cliff edge.
All that remains of Dunwich today is a very small village set back  from the coast
It was the sea which made Dunwich, and it was the sea that ultimately destroyed Dunwich - by encroaching inland and gradually taking the town prisoner beneath it’s waves. By the C18 five out of the six remaining churches had been washed away, with only All Saints church holding out to become the last surviving church to succumb to the sea’s destructive surges ..but the sea could not be constrained, and this church had to be abandoned in the late C18. Some of it's furnishings were salvaged and saved.

The last remaining buttress on the cliff edge was taken down in 1920 before it could fall into the sea, it was rebuilt in the churchyard of the new church, along with a few other pieces of it's masonry.             

 The Dunwich Estate owners  were a family by the name of Barne.They had a new church built away from the village near the ruins of the old Leper Hospital of St James.

... Originally this new church was a simple brick building with a short round tower, but Frederick Barne the benefactor, had the church altered, because he didn’t like it’s design, so paid to have it covered in cladding, and replaced the round tower with a square one, he also added a chancel to the church in 1881.

I like the chancel in St James's C19 church, it's very unpretentious with a lovely serene atmosphere

   A lot of wood has been used in this church, from the richly carved support corbels for the arch-braced roof, to the pews with their poppy-head ends
    Just through the entrance door stands a plain sturdy font – no extravagant carving here!  >>

  A brass dated 1576 for a ship owner and his family now resides in this church, having been rescued from the ill fated All Saints church where it had previously lodged.

         The West window holds a modern depiction of St Felix.

 There are many memorials around the church for the Barne family

….The chancel screen was erected in 1920 to the memory Lady Constance Barne…On the North chancel wall is a monument to Michael Barne who died 1837...

....and one on the North wall of the Sanctuary for Frederick Barne 1886. ..He was the last M.P. for Dunwich.


 I liked the lancet windows in the chancel, and the bright East window which dates from 1858

                  The piscina and sedilia are in the early English style.

The ruins of The Leper Hospital of St James are in the SE corner of the churchyard…it fell into decay and left to deteriorate before being abandoned in 1685. It is now the mausoleum for the Barne family. 

  Old leper hospital of St James.

This a beautiful area to visit. I'll certainly be making a return visit as soon as possible.

Monday, 22 September 2014

St Margaret's church, Toft Monks

This country church was built in the late C10 - early C11 and used by an order of the monks of Preaux,  Normandy until the mid C15.
It stands a distance apart from the village, nestling in the Norfolk countryside.

A pretty church with a castellated top to it’s C15 octagonal tower.
In the porch there are four wooden  head corbels, which are probably depictions of  early kings and queens, but sadly they are almost unrecognisable  now and look slightly grotesque.
On entering the light bright interior of the church, I looked up to the roof and noticed carved bosses, including one, which looked like the “green man” ...these can sometimes be seen carved anywhere in a  medieval church, either in stone or wood. They are thought to be a pagan symbol of fertility.
A C15 font stands at the West end of the church, with a cover which I believe comes from the C17.  The font’s decorative work has suffered through the years.

. Behind the font and set high into the West wall is a little door through to the tower..

Unusually there are two Royal Arms hatchments in this church – one for Charles 11 (1661) and the other for George 11 (1745)

Royal Arms of George 11

                               Ancient wall painting >>

Restoration of St Margaret’s was undertaken in the mid C19…It was at this time the C13 chancel was hugely restored.

The chancel is very plain but has a serene quality.

.. It’s pleasant East window is relatively modern, dating from 1950.

There are two brasses of interest in the chancel floor. One is for Edward Howlett d.1607 it has an interesting verse:-
          “As I was, so be yee, As I am yee shall be.
           That I gave, yt I have: that I spent, yt I had.
           Thus I end. All my cost, yt I left,  yt I lost.”
 The other C17 brass is for John Kedgell, which tells us he was a good benefactor of the ‘poore’

          There’s also an impressive memorial to John Bayspool dated 1653 on the chancel North wall.

I love that an adult male was nearly always referred to as  “Gent” on a lot of these old ledgerstones…probably respected in the parish

This simple church has a nice Celtic Cross war memorial standing on the North side of the churchyard.
It would be very easy to twist one’s ankle in this churchyard as it has many rabbit holes, so be aware if you ever pay a visit to this church!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

St Margaret's parish church.Lowestoft

This has to be one of the most loveliest of churches to visit.. It stands on high ground away from the town centre and is the main parish church of Lowestoft…A large and impressive building, it’s approached via it’s lych-gate

The present church dates from the mid/late C13, but had good restoration work done in the C19.. The height of the tower was extended and a slim spire added in the C15.
It has a large double storey South porch with chequerwork  along the base course and decorative flushwork panels to it’s fa├žade…three small statues stand in niches around the archway. They are (L-R) St Felix, St Margaret and Herbert de Losing, Bishop of Norwich
The top storey of the porch was used as a cell for two anchoress sisters to live in….It is now known as “The Maids Chamber”

   As you enter the nave your eye is drawn to the C14 font which was defaced by the puritans but has a glorious 1940’s gilded cover

Just in front of the font there’s a wonderful wooden chest from the 1600s

The nave is a vast space with charming arcades

It has a splendid 1890s reconstructed roof, painted deep red with much gilt work …gilded angels were added to the hammer-beams to provide an extra decorative touch.

With no chancel arch to separate the nave from the spacious C19 chancel the length of the church looks enormous

At the rear of the church there’s a huge banner store- quite the tallest I’ve ever come across.

There are some lovely stained glass windows in the north aisle

…and below them stretches a long wooden memorial plaque naming fishermen from along this coast who have lost their lives

… there’s also a long commemorative plaque to the soldiers from WW1 which lines the north wall of the north aisle Sanctuary

The church possesses a splendid rare medieval brass lectern from 1504

The High Altar has riddel posts topped by angels holding candles

A lovely ceremonial cross stands below the altar
and there are some good wall plaques in the church

….and there's lots of interesting ledgerstones

He must have been a compassionate man >>

The last remaining brass in the church

I found the vast churchyard fascinating as it holds many enormous tombstones from the 18th & 19th centuries. There must have been some very wealthy inhabitants in this town in those days.