Friday, 25 July 2014

St Mary's Priory church, Bungay

Visiting this church turned out to be a really joyous occasion. It is kept in immaculate condition and is set in the middle of a delightful churchyard in the town centre, where a path runs from one side of the churchyard to the other, connecting two busy roads.
Originally this church of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Holy Cross was   built in 1160 for an order of Benedictine nuns.

Early in the C15 the original C12 nave was replaced by a more extravagant one.
And an elegant  90’ tower was added c1470 , which has octagonal buttresses at each corner and near the base there is stone flushwork. There are carved leopards *look out guards* on the parapet. The two storey porch was also added about this time.

The townspeople were allowed to use this church until the dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry V111 in the mid C16. Only the nave and aisles were kept as a church while the rest of the monastery was left to decline and fall into disrepair. Extensive remains of the old priory are to be seen at the East end of the church, including the long C13 chancel wall

The church interior furnishings of worth were either confiscated or destroyed by the puritans c 1643, and great damage was caused to the fabric of the church, especially to the tower and south aisle during a devastating fire to the town in March 1688.
…The church was repaired and reopened in 1701, complete with a new roof to the south aisle and  box pews were added in the nave shortly after.
…During the mid-late C19 further restoration took place, which is more or less how we see the interior today….
Entry into the church is via the spacious north porch….
 The interior of the church is a huge space with no chancel arch to distinguish the chancel from the nave…

Splendid C14 arcading separates the north and south aisles from the nave. Clerestory windows help to provide much light into the church.

  The C15 timber roof in the north aisle is particularly lovely with it’s carved bosses.

  The tall impressive 1860 arcaded stone reredos featuring coloured texts of the ten commandments is below the lofty East window

... this window  was set up high so it would look out above and beyond the nuns priory quarters

The previous galleries had been taken down, and early C20 oak benches now replaced the earlier box pews.
 The pulpit from the early C18 is plain but pleasing to the eye.
 Many memorial plaques of local residents over the years adorn the walls of the church and there are some C18 ledger-slabs to be found in the floor of the aisles.

    A gorgeous *dole cupboard* dated 1675 stands in the porch,…this is where bread was left for collection by the poor and needy.

...and a chest dated 1680 can be found in the north aisle sanctuary

A wonderful early medieval font is on display in the porch, as is the remains of a medieval wayside cross.
 A newer font is C18 and has a splendid cover which is suspended from the ceiling

   This church has been in the care of the Church Conservation Trust since 1981. It had become imprudent to keep open two churches within close proximity. So a decision was made that this large church should become redundant for general worship and the smaller C12 Holy Trinity church would become the sole parish church for Bungay.

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