Sunday, 21 April 2013

Somerleyton A lovely little church...

This is the time I begin my Summer months of church and churchyard research each year. I'm never happier than when I'm up to my knees in undergrowth searching for someone's long lost ancestors, or checking out the history of medieval churches.
This is my first one for this year.....
                                           Somerleyton Church

This unimposing little church of St Mary’s is approached by it’s own driveway off the main road, but unlike most Suffolk churches it doesn’t have a round tower.
The church was almost derelict when it was brought back to life in the mid 1850’s. The 15th century tower. chancel and North aisle were restored and a new nave was built..
This is the family church to the Lord of the Manor of Somerleyton.

On entering the church one is struck by it’s simplicity.  Over the South door is a sculptured slab of the four Evangelists, this at one time was part of the original stone carved altar rerdos, until the vandalisation of the medieval churches  in the 16th century. This slab had laid undiscovered in the church grounds for 350 years, until restoration work began in 1854.
 Turning right to walk down the nave one is faced by the beautifully carved 15th century oak Altar screen. with sixteen painted panels – the colours of which are still well preserved.

These paintings represent figures of.....
St Michael the Archangel
St Edmund…King of East Anglia, martyred in 870 AD
St Apollonia..martyred 249 AD by burning to death
 St Lawrence..martyred 258 AD by roasting
An unknown martyred saint…possibly St Faith
Thomas of Canterbury..murdered in 1170 AD
St Anne..mother of The Blessed Virgin Mary
St Andrew Patron Saint of Scotland
St John the Evangelist
St Mary Magdalene
St Felix of Burgundy?
St Petronilla…daughter of Saint Peter
St Stephen martyred by stoning to death
St Dorothea martyred in 287 AD by beheading
St Edward the Confessor  last of the Saxon kings
St George martyred 300 AD and Patron saint of England

The stained glass windows in the Nave are 14th century Flemish and were removed from a nearby Priory...the original stained glass was removed in the 1640's by the Puritan movement

Restoration of the church in 1854 was due mainly to the efforts of Sir Morton Peto (1809-1889) The reredos was added in 1874 and the chancel was extended an extra 15ft in the same year.

The organ although built about 1912 was only placed in this church in 1971, after being rescued from an old chapel.

The font is octagonal depicting lions and angels holding shields with  a Jacobean cover which was placed over the base in the 16th century.

 The carving on the pews  is delightful in it’s simplicity

Under the old stone floor of the chancel lie the remains of Edward Jernegan who died in 1515, he is buried alongside those of his first wife. There are other memorials in the church, notably one of Sir John Wentworth and his wife. He was Lord of the Manor of Somerleyton and died in 1651 aged 77yrs.
…..and  also a memorial to Sir Thomas Allin a 17th century squire of Somerleyton.

 Three of the six church bells are about 400 hundred years old so date from before the reformation. Two of the other bells were added in the 18th century and the final one in 1872.

St Mary’s church is no different to so many of our country churches, It has a tale of it’s own to tell, and scratching beneath it’s surface has been fascinating.


  1. Lovely - have you seen the Hall itself? I was close to visiting once and am curious.

  2. Yes I have Alison but it was many years ago. it has a maze in the garden to get lost in;-)

  3. Yes I have Alison but it was many years ago. it has a maze in the garden to get lost in;-)