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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Locked church no 4 Gillingham

Gillingham churches St Mary and All Saints

There are actually three churches side by side along a short road which leads to Gillingham Hall…A locked Roman Catholic church and the two (one is a ruin) Church of England churches which stand either side of the Hall gates leading up to the Hall.

St Mary’s church
It has quite a large churchyard which is full of rabbit holes, in fact as I was walking around, a rabbit ran across my feet and vanished into it’s hole in the gave me  a bit of a shock. Thank goodness it wasn’t a rat!!!
            St Mary's is an early C12 flint built church, from the time of Henry 1st  – older than the ruined church of All Saints, but it was greatly modified in the mid C19,  thankfully retaining it’s splendidly carved  Norman doorways. The West one being the main entrance to the church..
Viewing the church from it’s East side it’s Apsidal chancel is displayed admirably, and you can see the tower  has a central position in the church
 It’s such a pity this church is now kept locked. Fortunately I was able to take a few pictures of the interior through clear glass on the North side of the church.

I got the impression that it's rather plain and simply furnished

Gillingham Hall stands directly behind the East end of the church, and there are a few fine large tombstones close to the church wall on that side….Although I couldn’t recognise any of the names, I suspect they belong to people who had connections with the Hall in the past.

 Surprisingly the churchyard is quite neat and tidy, evidently someone keeps it in order on a regular basis.

The ruins of All Saints church
This church was built in the C15 but by 1629 had united with St Mary’s, leaving All Saints abandoned. Most of the church was knocked down in 1748, with only the top of it’s tower now on view.  The rubble from the knocked down church was used to repair roads…(I’m surprised the tower was left standing)

The remains of the tower is almost hidden by a thick mantle of ivy
cladding and now completely inaccessible

A few burials still took place in this churchyard right up to the early C20, but only one or two headstones can be seen.
Sadly it was impossible to negotiate through the centuries of heavily overgrown vegetation to find others…it reminded me of the fairy story of Sleeping Beauty’s castle! ... At one point I was on a slope hanging precariously to a trembling branch to retain an upright position, with scratches, nettle stings and insect bites to show for my efforts.
The things I do in the name of research!!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Locked churches 2&3

2)   All Saints, Kirby Cane
This is another round towered church which stands back from the road amidst a spacious churchyard containing large yew trees, which give immediate evidence of the age of this church.
All Saints is not a large church but has a beautiful Norman South doorway, with a  door covered with C17 graffiti

There's an impressive East window which shows to perfection it’s stretched glass which makes the window appear to shimmer.

<< a niche at one side of the porch which probably held a statuette of one of the saints.

...and a scratch dial(sometimes called Mass dials) is scratched in a stone near one of the nave windows  >>

There’s a blocked up doorway in the north wall of the church.

A nice war memorial stands on the East side of the churchyard,.

This churchyard is badly overgrown in some parts, but I noticed this ‘Alleluya’(sic) marker amidst the graves….I wonder if it’s meant as a grave marker, or is it just a post to *praise the Lord*?…it seems oddly situated in the churchyard if that is the case.

3)   St Mary’s Ellingham
This square towered church is found on a corner approached via a country lane…A sign by the front gate tells us that the roof no longer contains lead ….I assume thieves had already purloined it!
This is a very well kept churchyard with only a small section given over to conservation.

I love this sentimental grave with it’s carved dog, I hazard a  guess the deceased must have been a dog lover.

I was able to get a fair picture of some of the stained glass windows in the nave, taken through a pane of clear glass from the other side of the church.

A war memorial stands just through the gates

Sadly I didn’t see many headstones in this churchyard to excite my curiosity

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

A pity there has to be locked Churches

Locked churches (1) St Michael GELDESTON

It is such a great pity that some churches have to remain locked, I’ve found this in Norfolk more so than in Suffolk, where almost all are accessible.
            Not long ago I decided that I would spend the day mooching round the churchyards of three of these locked country churches…it’s surprising what little gems of information can be obtained from gravestones.

St Michael’s round towered church, Geldestone was first on my list…
            A charming medieval church, with a picturesque entrance approach.
It’s churchyard rises to the East behind the church and there’s a 1914-1918  war memorial at it’s centre…this memorial not only lists the men who perished but also their regimental crests, which I thought was a nice touch.

Reading the various headstones I was left wondering if a disease or epidemic of some kind was prevalent in this parish during the 1850's  as it seems too much of a coincidence to see so many deaths for so many families from this time…husbands, wives and children dying within days or weeks of each other.

Loved these two very old stones both dated 1683 for William and his wife Elizabeth, they lie close to the medieval porch, which has  just one well preserved head stop left (the one the other side of the porch has long disappeared.)


I managed to take a picture through a clear pane of window, it gave me a hint of the interior.

This gravestone was provided by the employers of the deceased in respect for his loyalty during the 23 years he worked for them.

Sadly the old graveyard is dreadfully overgrown and unkempt, but I noticed a few recent graves in an adjoining field, which are reached through a gate in the church wall, hopefully these will be attended to for many years.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Two into one WILL go...

 All Saints & St Margaret’s Church, Pakefield,

This thatched roof church started out in early medieval times as two separate churches, joined by one central nave wall - the same as we see today’s semi-detached houses.
The story goes, that two wealthy landowners from neighbouring parishes wanted to have their own church built over a large sarsen stone, which was a relic from the Ice Age…these stones had been used as pagan altars. Compromise was reached when they decided to build two churches with a dividing wall between - this wall is supposedly built over the pagan stone,
.Over the centuries the arches in this wall have been opened up and closed many times, depending on whether there was just one priest overseeing both churches, or a priest for each church. Finally in 1748 the two churches permanently became one when the dividing wall arches were opened up for the last time. The church has since been known as All Saints & St Margaret’s
It must have been an awkward situation to have two adjoining churches having services taking place at the same time

It seemed so unusual to enter a small church which has two naves, two chancels and two altars, but sharing the same tower, but it all comes together beautifully.
St Margaret’s is on the left side of the church as you face the East, and All Saints on the right. I know some people  think St Margaret’s might be a Lady chapel to All Saints, but this is incorrect, as St Margaret’s is a church in it’s own right, but All Saints is the side of the united churches which is used most frequently.

 All Saints had a beautiful C19 East window until as recently as December 2013..when very high winds and storms which played havoc with the coastline damaged this window, causing the window to be bordered up while waiting for a new one to be  made to replace it.

The C14 font stands at the West end of the church, where the two churches meet.

One of the hazards for  this church standing on a cliff edge - it takes the full force of the North  Easterly gales blowing in off the sea 

On the walls of  St Margaret’s side of the church is a brass dating from 1417 for John and Agnes Bowf with their two sons and nine daughters. This brass has been moved to it’s present position to prevent further damage to it.
Lying in front of St Margaret’s altar is the gravestone of Philip Richardson dated 1748 – he was the last priest in charge of both churches before they were united.

In 1949 the C14 East window on St Margaret’s side of the church was filled in to prevent damage caused by it’s falling tracery, it was thought to be unsafe since two incendiary bombs fell and badly damaged the church during WW2.

The present organ built in 1952  replaced the earlier war damaged one, and it stands in front of this built in window, and behind St Margaret’s altar.

Near the North door is a square hole which goes through the full thickness of the church wall, each end is covered in glass. This hole held a horizontal beam which supported scaffolding when the wall of the church was being built.

All Saints was extended in the C15 and a crypt now lies beneath the sanctuary which had to have it's floor raised to accommodate the room below.
<< showing air vents to the crypt

The modern altar of All Saints seems rather austere

A wooden rood screen stretches from one side of St Margaret’s to the far side of All Saints…As you can see from the picture below St Margaret’s side of the church took the full force of the falling incendiary bombs        
                      St Margaret's screen      All Saints screen

In the West wall, near the tower and to the left of the belfry door are stone steps which led to a room, probably used for contemplation, and around the back of the church is an ancient stone bench. In medieval times this bench was for the use of the aged and infirm, the rest of the congregation had to stand or kneel during services
….Hence the old adage “the weakest shall go to the wall”

The Royal Arms of Charles 11 (1681) hangs on the West wall, but apparently it’s colours aren’t correct! (perhaps through dodgy pigment or maybe just an ill informed  artist)

This is a building which has come through much adversity, and it stands as a silent witness to the people who have faith in the church.
It’s a really pleasant church to visit, it’s so light and airy and has a warm welcoming atmosphere….even the sheep who graze in it's churchyard seem content with the world
Thankfully now with better sea defences this church should no longer worry - at least not for a long time - of the encroaching sea taking it prisoner, as it has with so many churches along this stretch of coastline.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Holy Trinity church, Bungay

Holy Trinity stands just across the road from the larger, now redundant church of St Mary, in the town centre.
 It’s a small early medieval round towered church, with a C15 castellated porch, and stair turret. This church now serves both the parishes of St Mary and Holy Trinity.  It is the oldest building in Bungay as it dates back to the late Saxon period and is built from flint and rubble, as are so many churches from this date.
The present porch door is C19 and replaced a much earlier door which had been  damaged in 1688 when a fire destroyed a large part of St Mary’s Priory church across the road, and also a great deal of Bungay town itself.

 Unfortunately on the day I visited Holy Trinity I found it closed to the public as interior  repair and restoration work was being carried out.
I was allowed inside the porch to take a photo of these fine head stops beside the church doorway arch..They are discoloured due to the heat of that great fire in 1688 which thankfully was prevented from encroaching  beyond this church's door.
… and I managed to take a picture of the church interior from outside- through a pane of clear glass in one of the nave windows – a poor substitute I know, but it was the best I could do under the circumstances…I hope to come back here to take ‘proper’  photographs of the interior once the church restoration and repair work is completed..

There’s a scratch dial on the SE buttress - these were often found on medieval churches, but most are now wearing away with the passage of time.

 The windows have some very fine tracery…they must look spectacular from inside the church.

 Blocked Norman slit window on the North wall of the church.

While walking round the churchyard I noticed a few headstones of interest, especially this one belonging to Henry Scarle, a 23yr old who worked as a waterman.  He was brutally set upon and murdered by two men while he was working on his boat. His murderers were arrested,. brought to trial and sentenced to death. They were publicly hanged at Norwich on 30th March 1787.

A very sad story which has gone down in Bungay history.  A young man cruelly cut down in his prime while loyally protecting his employers property..

I sincerely hope I can get back to visit this church again as there's so much of interest which I couldn't get to explore.