It had been a few years since I last visited St Mary’s Church Uggeshall...so 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 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
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.